Friday, July 31, 2009

300 Miles Down, 0 to Go

We did it, y'all, we did it.
Exhaustion is setting in, so rather that draft a series of eloquent paragraphs, I think I'll leave you with some context-free quotes from Mindy.  You should be able to get a feel for what kind of day I had.  So in no particular order, here's what I heard from Mindy while out on the road today:
- "My diaper is wet."
- "How many more miles left?"
- "I thought you said there weren't any more hills."
- "Shut your mouth!"
- "Now how many more miles left?"
- "No, I did not just fart!  That was a skunk."
- "Did you forget about me back there, Lance?"
- "This has been pretty awesome."
- "Now how many more miles left?"
- "We did it!"
And before I sign off, I do want to give a special "shout out" to the five amazing women who shared the TRAM experience with me.  Andrea, Diane, Donna, Mindy, and Steff: thanks for letting me join your sorority...and thanks for limiting your conversations about menstrual cycles to just one.  :-)  I know I'll remember this week for the rest of my life.

We Finished!

Here we are post-TRAM!! Jeff and Steff's moms are with us - our inspiration to bike 300 miles!!
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Rest stop 3

Our LAST rest stop!!!
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Last rest stop, last day! 10.7 to go. Happy faces all around.

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Day 5: Rest stop 1

Jeff and I are at the 1st rest stop, about an hour behind the rest of the crew. It's all hills again today, but we're not doing so bad! 13 miles down, 35 to go... Jeff just said "we could do that in our sleep". Uh huh.
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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dispatch From Tent City, Night Four

I am writing in the dark, from my tent, trying to avoid the weird neighbor guy next door who keeps trying to engage me in exceedingly awkward and tricky political conversations. Tonight Andrea the Hammer and I checked out the announcements and watched the team competition like the diligent TRAM participants we are, and now I am crashing early instead of going to find the cool kids to hang out. I am tiiiiiired. I think I have already almost nodded off eleven times while writing this. I do not think I would be the life of the party right about now.

SO, I haven't blogged much because my phone keeps dying but have had an amazing time. I do not think tomorrow's ride will be easy (actually, let's get real: my legs might fall off half way up the first hill, people) but I also think that will make it much more rewarding to finish. I am hoping that adrenaline will help out tomorrow, or if not that, then I may have my Aunt Diane (our awesome support driver) funnel handfuls of Advil into my mouth at rest stops. And I am sure that Hammer and my Aunt Donna--tomorrow's riding partners--will help me get through by being the charming, thought-provoking, hill-charging, occasionally-foul-mouthed ladies they usually are. (By the way, the Aunties need more shout outs when I blog more from home. They were SO GREAT all week and I could not have done this without them.)

Alrighty, I need to sign off so I can get up at 5:15 and put on those godforsaken bike shorts one last time in the morning. Will write more when I have finally conquered TRAM and have regained my ability to think straight!

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Day 4: Hills, hills, hills

Today was maybe even worse than yesterday. Sure, it was "only" 45 miles and yesterday was 71, but to say that today was "a bit hilly" would be a wild understatement. It was hill after hill with no end in sight. Jeff is naturally a very positive person, but today he resorted to flat out LYING because there really was very little to be positive about: "this next hill looks really easy" or "this is the last hill for a while" (only if "a while" meant "for the next 30 seconds").

The final straw for me was when I was huffing and puffing up the eleventy-millionth hill right behind a woman. Halfway up she let one rip! That was actually pretty good motivation for me to "drop the hammer" as Andrea says. That means I went a little faster than 6 mph up that hill to avoid being in the direct Path of Flatulence.

I hope this doesn't give Jeff any ideas on how to motivate me to go faster.

In other news, I took a THREE hour nap this afternoon. I hope I can sleep tonight!

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Note to Self - #2

Every time you go down a hill, you're going to eventually have to come up said hill.

Stupid physics.
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Day 4 @ the starting line!

45 miles to do today, which should feel like a breeze after the 71 yesterday!

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A sea of bikes

This is the bike corral in St Peter.

I'm tired.

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Note to Self

If I ever come across a pair of WHITE bike shorts on sale, don't buy them.

Especially if said shorts look like they could become transparent once you start to sweat.
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TRAM Scenery

Corn and soybean fields. That's pretty much all we've seen. It's pretty, but every now and then it might be nice to see a potato field or something. The only other real diversity is seeing (and smelling) the occasional turkey farm. I choose corn and soybeans instead.

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My view

Jeff's backside.

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St. George Welcomed Us with Polka!.jpg

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Ode to Joy

We were just informed that -- due to road work -- our route this morning will be a few miles longer, requiring us to clock 71 miles today.

I've never been a fan of Wednesdays.
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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Scared to fall asleep

After seeing our motel digs, Andrea and Steff brought up various movie titles that the structure conjured up for them. These movie titles included things like "Motel Murders!", "Gruesome Deaths in Redwood Falls Motels" and "You'll Never Get Out Alive". I'd like to think that any place that has an Einstein bobblehead as its only piece of decor would be pretty safe. Jovial, even. But now I'm not so sure. Thanks, ladies!

With that, good night. In 10 hours (we hope) we'll be off on our longest ride of the week: 67.5 miles!

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Tonight's musical entertainment: Hick Town Mafia

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Our Motel Room's Modern Decor.jpg

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Mindy's Favorite Rest Stop!.jpg

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Worst part of TRAM

I cannot handle port-a-potties. I am convinced that every time I enter one I will immediately contract an incurable disease like ebola or the monkey-pox or something. Due to necessity, I must use them once a day here, but I will not do it more than that. I've had to pee for the last 10 miles, and there's 14 to go, but I've already endured the Biffy once today, 14 miles I can finally relieve myself.

Other than that, things are going swimmingly!

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The Secret to My Success.jpg

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Day 2, Rest Stop 1

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Day 2 breakfast. The magic never ends.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Camping in Monte!

Andrea and Steff's campsite. Jeff and I are going to be staying with that creepy dead bear. Not sure who's winning here.

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Day 1 is Done

I'm currently "in line" to shower at our host family's crib, so this will have to be quick.

Here are my highlights from Day 1.

(A) Any one of the following three things are bad on their own:

- a hill with a 60 degree slope
- a 15 mph cross wind
- a field covered with manure

When you combine all three of these things at the same time, however, the experience is best described as "death-like."

(B) My front break broke. That's right: BROKE. A volunteer "fixed" it using a twisty and some electrical tape. No, I'm not joking: my front break is currently being held together by some tape and something that normally is used to seal a loaf of bread.

(C) There's a very good chance Mindy is going to have nightmares tonight. You'll understand why when I post a picture of what's at the foot of our bed.

More to come...
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Good Morning Mindy!.jpg

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Day 1 is Done

I'm currently "in line" to shower at our host family's crib, so this will have to be quick.

Here are my highlights from Day 1.

(A) Any one of the following three things are bad on their own:

- a hill with a 60 degree slope
- a 15 mph cross wind
- a field covered with manure

When you combine all three of these things at the same time, however, the experience is best described as "death-like."

(B) My front break broke. That's right: BROKE. A volunteer "fixed" it using a twisty and some electrical tape. No, I'm not joking: my front break is currently being held together by some tape and something that normally is used to seal a loaf of bread.

(C) There's a very good chance Mindy is going to have nightmares tonight. You'll understand why when I post a picture of what's at the foot of our bed.

More to come...
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Day 1 Finished!

We actually did it! Day 1 is behind us. 63 miles, 6.5 hours (including stops), countless muscle aches. Overall, not too bad!

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Flamingo at Rest Stop 3

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Andrea, Erin and their little girl Maya, plus Steff on the right. This was before we got started.

Stay tuned for more!

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

T-1: Ortonville

We're at announcements - TRAM kickoff!
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We're On the Bus

Mindy and I are currently en route from Welch Village to Ortonville.

A volunteer just stood up at the front of the bus and gave us the following order: "Please be sure to put on your wristbands before getting off the bus. Your wristband is extremely important, as it's your ticket to access everything this week, including the shower truck."

Mindy can't find her wristband.

And I just somehow scratched my eyeball with mine and cannot currently see anything out of my left eye. Apparently I will be attempting to become the first cyclops to complete TRAM?

In other words, we're off to a great start!

And did he really say "shower truck?"
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Thursday, July 23, 2009

I am such a slacker blogger! A lot has been happening, people, and yet I have been neglecting my blog posting duties. Which means it’s like all this stuff didn’t even happen, you know? You know what they say: if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to blog about it, it doesn’t make a sound. That’s a scientific fact.

SO, last weekend I did my planned 60- and 50-mile rides. Before my training partners get all uppity about how I train too much and am totally nuts, let me state for the record that the MS Society’s TRAM brochure training program explicitly stated that I was supposed to do that. When I am given a training program, I follow it to the letter. Unless I am going above and beyond it like a crazy person. But I digress! My weekend rides were totally manageable and left me feeling somewhat prepared for this monstrosity of a ride. Though I will admit that I purposely chose relatively flat routes, so as to avoid lots of teeth-gnashing and whining, which may technically have been a wimpy call.

I spent a bunch of the weekend on Beach Drive, which is a massive biker haven on the weekends. It’s the best biker-people-watching opportunity of all time, which has allowed me to make some earth-shattering observations. For example:
  • Not everyone who has a fancy-ass bike and coordinated spandexy outfit is good at riding. This weekend I actually managed on two separate occasions to pass fancy-pants biking dudes—while going uphill! Granted, this means they were riding approx. 5 mph. Regardless, for me this was the equivalent of winning my own personal Tour de France.
  • Conversely, sometimes people who seem to have no game at all—e.g some guys in khaki shorts and orthopedic sandals with He-Man calves—might pass you like you’re standing still. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.
  • I have an irresistible urge to catch up with and pass people who are not wearing a helmet because to me that means they are NOT serious bikers and thus I must try to show them how it is done. The same urge surfaces when I see the following: women in tube tops, people riding 700-lb mountain bikes, and that guy I saw this weekend riding a racing-bike-style tricycle. Not kidding.
  • There are not a lot of ladies out biking! On Beach Dr I am usually outnumbered, like, 8 to 1. This is a strange change from my day-to-day life where the ladies at work (at a women’s organization) outnumber the men 44 to 3. This makes me want to recruit MORE lady bikers!! Watch out, friends! I’m coming to get you.
The only other noteworthy accomplishment of the weekend was when Bert and I broke my bike into tiny pieces and put it in a box to be shipped to Minnesota. This was sort of traumatizing and yet sort of cathartic, all at the same time. On a related note, I just talked to my dad. The bike got to Ortonville like an hour ago and he already had the local bike guru assemble it! Things happen FAST in O-town.

One final observation and then I will shut up for the day: I think that my fellow TRAMmer Time bloggers--and my adorable parents, plus my awesome aunts who will be along for the ride--are really hysterically funny, and at this point that is the #1 reason I am looking forward to the ride. I mean, if you don't count the obvious do-gooder reasons for looking forward it, that is. You all are the best!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mormon temple spires

Whenever I ride on Beach Drive I go past the Mormon Temple and see these wacky-looking golden spires sticking up. One of them has the Angel Moroni on it. Totally the best part of the ride.

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Grubby biking legs

I was SO not kidding about how messed up my legs get when I am biking. Here is the evidence! I had to basically sandpaper my legs after this ride.

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Mamma Turtle

This turtle is one of the many creatures that almost made me fall off my bike when I saw her. She was just sitting by the trail in St. Louis park, and Jeff & I discovered she was LAYING EGGS!! It was super cool. Behold:


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bike Gear and Wine

Today I purchased the last of my gear for the TRAM Ride. I now have sunglasses, which will protect my eyes from the sun, bugs, and the wind I create from riding so fast. I now have a computer on my bike so I know just how truly, awesomely (not) fast I ride. While driving to work in my comfy car on Monday I saw a man riding his bike, presumably to his job. He seemed to be going super-duper fast, so being the creep that I am, I slowed down and tried to drive at the exact speed he was riding. Turns out I was speeding and he was going the speed limit. Holy cow. I'm pretty sure my computer thing will never see 30 miles per hour. Ever. Unless I'm careening down a cliff after losing control of my bike while trying to get my feet out of the clip in pedals that I have still not tried.

What's that? The ride starts in less than one week? And you recommend that I get used to the pedals and shoes before that? Well, poo. Maybe you should figure out a way for me to go back in time so I can actually train like a good rider would. And then I could also also not drink the wine I drank tonight. I'd really like that.

You see, Adam (my ridiculously patient and encouraging riding partner) and I were going to ride tonight. Sort of a last hoorah if you will. But there was a storm warning predicting hail and 30 mph wind and cloud to ground lightning. Now, some people may call me a tad bit dumb. Maybe those same people who think I should have gotten used to my pedals by now. But I'm not dumb enough to ride in weather like that. I have a child to provide for, after all! So we found ourselves, along with my mom and daughter, at a local burrito establishment eating nachos and drinking wine. Do I get training points for drinking wine that had a bicycle on the label? I think yes. And do I get extra points because I now have some serious heart burn which I attribute to said bike-wine? Yes again. 

To continue the theme of gear and booze, another piece of bike gear I purchased today is a funny shaped bag/pouch thing that fits under the seat of my fancy blue bike. It's maybe a bit big, but I like to be over prepared. It currently holds two extra tube things for my tires, some funny little patches for bike tubes that make me think of temporary tattoos, and a funny little yellow tool for taking my tire thing off the rim thing to get at the tube thing in case of a flat tire. I'm pretty sure it doubles as an orange peeler. I may have made a comment about now needing a flask to put in my big bike pouch. To which Bike Dude (see post about New Shorts) asked if I had a sister. My response, "Do you know another alcoholic in town?" thinking that I must remind him of some other middle aged crazy woman. I'm really not a big drinker at all. I drink more coffee than anything, followed closely by coffee in fancy forms. Anyway, Bike Dude was thinking that maybe he likes my style of biking and drinking. I said no, but I have a brother if you're interested. (I was completely kidding about this. I mean, I do have a brother, but he's in a relationship with a lady and doesn't plan on changing that). I think that I may have a reputation in this bike shop as an obnoxious dork who's in for one heck of a world of hurt come Monday. But at least I'll have room in my big bike bag for my cell phone so I can call for help should I get stuck in my pedals, have a flat tire and not remember how to use it, run out of booze in my flask (this will not actually happen, of course. At least not on this ride. I'll save the flask for family rides), or have such a sore and angry body that I can't possibly move another inch. Then the bike helpers will come to my rescue and I'll be carted off to the safety of some small town in the middle of nowhere and be able to drink a vanilla soy latte with an extra shot of espresso. Or some gas station coffee. Whatever.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Best Biking Accessory EVER

Everyone, I have purchased the BEST biking accessory ever: a CamelBak hydration pack. Behold:

This thing has seriously changed my life. See, you fill it up with ice water and strap it to your back, and then that little blue hose sits up near your face so that you can drink whenever you want. I am thinking of wearing it everywhere: to work, while walking my dog, maybe even while sleeping. I am obsessed with hydration. 100% obsessed. I actually get just a little bit happier every time I take a big swig of ice cold water from this bad boy. It is fantastic. Everyone should have one. Including you! Go get one now!
PS. Dear CamelBak, I would gladly accept any offers you might want to put forth for me to be your new spokesperson. I think most professional athletes are pretty busy, and as it turns out, I am not, so I have lots of time to tell everyone how great these things are. Call me.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Learnings from a Sponge

My former boss had an expression he liked to use: “Be a sponge, Jeff. Be a sponge.”

Typically he would utter these words in one of two situations: (1) when he was trying to teach me something new, or (2) when he had just spilled some coffee.

To this day, whenever I find myself trying to learn something new – or whenever I see a latte puddle – I hearken back to his advice and become a sponge. Since this whole concept of “training for a 300 mile bike ride” is completely foreign to me, I’ve found myself acting quite spongy lately. When I go on each of my training rides, I try to learn from the other riders. I observe their attire. I note their gestures. I guess you could say I soak it all in.

And – in no particular order – here’s what I’ve learned so far:

- It’s perfectly normal for a woman to ride her bike while wearing a silk negligee tucked into a jean skirt.

- When you’re riding behind a man who appears to be in his late 70’s, and you inform said man that you’re “on the left,” you’re actually encouraging him to veer off to the left while staring off into the horizon in search of the rare hummingbird you apparently spotted “on the left.”

- If you have really bad B.O. and tend to breathe in a manner similar to Darth Vader, your best way to endear yourself to other riders is by pulling up right alongside them and pedaling at the exact same speed.

- If you can’t track town a clean pair of shorts and a t-shirt – but you still have your Halloween costume from ’93 when you dressed up as Richard Simmons – by all means, you’re good to go.

- If you’re a child riding with your parent on one of those dual bikes and you get a bit tired, you should feel free to lay your head down on your handlebars and drag your feet on the road while your mom shouts out encouraging words like, “Bethany, do you want any d@mn ice cream or not?

These are my key learnings so far. While I clearly feel like my sponge is full, I’m not sure if I’m any better off?

New Shorts

I finally did it. With very few days left until the TRAM ride begins, I bought 2 new pairs of fancy biking shorts. That's right: I can now ride 2 days in a row without feeling disgusting. And, unlike my first experience of writhing my way into diaper shorts, I now find them strangely comfortable. I had to do a reality check, however, when, for the briefest of moments, I started to think that maybe I would wear these shiny black and skin tight beauties without shorts over them. No one, save my husband, has EVER seen me in the butt-savers without a baggier layer over them. In addition to the skin tight version, I also bought a pair of the new fangled shorts with a built in baggy layer on top, which I am unsure about because I think the material may make a little too much of a swishing noise when I pedal.

My first time in a changing room with shiny black shorts was humiliating. I giggled my whole way through it. Much like my wedding, but for very different reasons. My husband I love dearly. Skin tight anything I despise. I tend to giggle when nervous, uncomfortable, or extremely happy. For the record, I giggled at my wedding due to extreme happiness. I giggled in the dressing room with the bike shorts because I could now become one of those people in really tight clothes sitting on a seat not much bigger than the handle end of a baseball bat that I have consistently mocked from the safety of my own car with rolled up windows. 

And then there's the super helpful guy at my local bike store of choice who helped me find these new butt pads. He helped me figure out how to get in and out of my brand new clip in pedals. They're not really new. Erin gave them to me for Mother's Day (please refer to earlier posts about my procrastination habit). I'm still pretty sure someone will be injured by me while I try to look so cool with my fancy shoes and pedals. I apologize in advance for this. Everyone should be so lucky to have a dude like this bike guy to go to for help. He really is a dude. A jock even. He biked 40 miles against the wind just for the fun of it. He could have driven, but no. He rode. And then he canoed when he got done with his 40 mile ride. 

Really?! I'm doing this ride a bike thing because there's no way I could say no to Steff. She's adorable and wonderful and an all around great lady. And then there's Mindy, who is all of those qualities as well. Put the two together and of course I'm going to ride across the flipping state. In my fancy new shorts and shoes and gloves on my finely tuned machine (thank you, dude at the bike shop) with a smile on my sweaty face and a song in my over-worked heart.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Things That Almost Make Me Crash + Good Training Food

I am exhausted. I cannot believe I only have 2 more weeks to prepare for this ride. TWO WEEKS FROM TODAY I'll be an hour or so in to a 5+ hour day of biking - the first of five such days. That is terrifying.
This weekend I biked 42 miles on Saturday, and 38 on Sunday. On Sunday I realized that there are 3 things that consistently make me almost fall off my bike, or crash into other cyclists. Those three things are:

1) Pretty houses: Biking around the lakes in Minneapolis, it is impossible not to notice all the ridiculously beautiful homes around you. By "homes" I mean "mansions", really. They are amazing. When I see one I particularly like (every other house, roughly?) I start day dreaming about how I'd decorate the house I'll never own, with all the things I can't afford. I would do a bang up job, let me tell you - if I don't get killed by oncoming traffic first, that is.

2) Cute animals: Biking around the lakes also involves seeing quite a few ducks. And where ever there are ducks there are....DUCKLINGS! There is a little pond that I ride by often, and I have been watching the ducklings grow each week. First there were 5 and now there are only 3. I know that probably what happened to them isn't as nice as this, but I imagine they are off at duckling boarding school or something. Or maybe their parents split up and 2 of them decided to go with their dad? Anyway, in addition to ducklings there are the bunnies who sit along side the trails munching on grass and being all adorable. I always stare at them too and then nearly run some child off the trail. Woops!

3) BUGS! EEK! This is my least favorite reason for almost crashing my bike. Without fail, each and every ride my safety is compromised when a bug (or 17) attaches itself to my shirt, or flies down the front of my shirt, or lands in my hair, or ends up in my mouth. EEK! I cannot handle this. Yesterday I had to pick a beetle-like thing out of my sports bra. Not long after that I felt something land on my head (in the spaces of my helmet), and I actually found myself hoping it was bird poop! It wasn't. So instead of stopping, I just took off my helmet quickly while riding (look ma, no hands!) and starting fishing around in my hair. Instead of gently removing the poor thing, I smooshed him into my hair. It was not pleasant for me, but even less pleasant for him. Again, woops!

At any rate, while Andrea mentioned that her legs are shaping up nicely, I cannot say the same. This could be because as soon as I got home, I cooked and then devoured a giant tub of pesto pasta with sundried tomatoes and tofu, and then baked 2 different kinds of delicious vegan layer cakes:

Vanilla cake with fluffy lemon frosting
and Double chocolate with chocolate frosting:

Yeah, that might be part of the problem. It's hard to say, though, really...


Sunday, July 12, 2009

What a Beautiful Weekend

This was a great weekend. I would love to recreate it. Here's my summary:

On Friday we drove to Lake Vermillion to spend time with family at a beautiful cabin on a quiet bay. We saw deer and eagles chasing osprey. We saw an otter swimming by the cabin, loons floating by, and herons flying. Maya got to dip her body in the chilly water and sit in the hot tub, which was pleasantly luke warm for her. I went blueberry picking for the first time with some great people on a scenic bluff over the lake. I could have stayed in that blueberry patch for days; it felt so refreshing and good for my soul and brain. After leaving Erin at the airport this morning so he could go to DC to have work stuff interfere with fun with Steff and Andy, I went strawberry picking with my mom, mother-in-law, and Maya. Maya was a trooper to the core. At one point she spread out on her back in the row, put her hands behind her head, and leaned back on the strawberry plants in the most adorable strawberry picking break ever.

Then I took a nap instead of calling my riding partner like I was supposed to. Sorry, Adam. That was rude in about 10 different ways. To make up for not riding, I ate pizza and strawberry shortcake with my mom. I also started watching probably the worst movie I've seen in a long time. But it was strangely engrossing. I kind of wish that I could have kept watching, but I was a good TRAM trainee.

I went home and rode our exercise bike. It's a recumbent type of bike. I thought that this would feel better on my body than that little saddle jamming itself up you-know-where, but no. I hurt in different places, and more of them. I did sweat more than I do on the trail, which was fun. And possibly the best part of the weekend came while riding this old-person bike: I could focus on watching my legs rather than not running into trees and people. And let me tell you, my legs jiggle far less than they did when I started this crazy road to the TRAM Ride. This was possibly one of the most motivating things I have encountered while training (Can I really call what I've been doing training? Technically, probably not. But will I continue to say that I've been training? Heck yes. It sounds tough and hard-core and cool). Steff's posts about her mad training have also been motivating. But really, what can be more encouraging than less leg jiggle? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. It actually made me want to ride a lot more. Good thing I'll have the chance to ride non-stop for a week. Holy legs! Can you even imagine the thighs and calves and sunburns we'll have?! And the butt! I really think my butt has shrunk, too, while training. My tight pants are now slightly loose pants. Isn't that just the coolest thing ever?

To re-cap: Nature, family, Maya, berries, blah, blah, blah, less jiggle, pants fit better. I like this training thing.

EXTREME! Training weekend

I am blatantly stealing the title of this post from a friend, who refers to my current craze as my “EXTREME! training schedule,” with full use of both italics and exclamation marks. Up until now, I’ve been denying that my training has become extreme, but this weekend I have to admit that I may have bitten off more than I could comfortably chew. My legs kind of hate me right now. Here’s the weekend recap:  

Yesterday I met up with Bert and we did 51 miles, which included a stretch of the Custis Trail and the W&OD. For those of you outside the DC area, both are great trails that’ll take you out of the city into the wonders (har har) of Virginia. If you get far enough out and, like, squint very hard, you can pretend that the leafy green scenery is Minnesota. The W&OD is a pseudo rail trail, so the incline is kind, but the Custis has some ugly hills, right off the bat, which make me cranky. If I had a fairy godmother of biking, I would ask her to grant me the ability to stand up on my pedals while climbing hills without feeling like my quads are going to fall off, or like I am going to topple over. Why is this so hard for me?? Children can do it! Yet I cannot. 

One additional observation: I think I am a very dirty biker. No matter where I ride, I somehow manage to attract all sorts of grime and dead bugs and chain goo. Seriously, people appear alarmed when they see me coming. This problem was exacerbated yesterday by the fact that I dropped my bike spectacularly on the sidewalk in Georgetown because I was trying to simultaneously carry my lunch, apply lip balm, and walk my bike to a park where Bert and I could eat. My bike slimed my legs with chain poop like you wouldn’t believe. I am not a ladylike biker, people. And apparently I should lay off the multitasking.

Today I had to go to running club in the morning because it was the first day of our 10-mile training program and I am a coach this session (don’t laugh! just cross your fingers for my poor trainees). We only did a few miles but the run still gave my legs a weird new sensation: really stiff, yet Jell-O-like. Fascinating. Then I did a ride with Miguel down Beach Drive, which so glorious I was actually composing songs (a la Andrea!) the whole time, except for the hilly parts, which made me curse the day Beach Drive was born. I’m fickle like that. 

That’s all I’ve got. I’m now crazy tired, which is unfortunate because I’ve got plans to go meet friends (including Andrea’s hubby, who is in town for work!). I have a feeling my conversation style tonight might include lots of mumbling incoherently and intermittently putting my head down on the table for a nap. Which would not be very EXTREME! at all.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Various Observations

Since I have not ridden my bike in far too long, I have no fun stories to share from any time in the recent past. So I decided to share some various observations and thoughts that I have gathered over the last few months.

1) Roughly 90% of the men who ride on the Munger trail sport a mustache. I feel like I don't run into that high of a percentage of men with mustaches in my daily life. Where do all of these men live and work? And which came first, the mustache or the biking?

2) Hills feel so much bigger when using my body to get up them rather than my usual preferred method of transportation: the car. The car with the leather bucket seats that comfortably support all of my rear end.

3) Riding is so much easier with a good friend along. Someone who will listen to my made up songs about gin and tonics and any other random topics that I just might want to compose songs for. Someone who understands when I have to stop to adjust my diaper shorts. And the gossip. That helps A LOT! I am certainly looking forward to riding with 2 good friends and one of their boyfriends whom I am sure I will like. As long as he laughs at my songs.

4) Going back to Number 2, I now find myself thinking about biking more places. What the What?! Duluth has hills, lots and lots of big hills. And very few bike friendly roads as far as I can tell. I fight these thoughts of pedaling with very little energy. I think it could be fun to ride somewhere. As long as someone can bring me back up the hill.

5) I tend to get myself in a little too deep, bite off a little more than I can chew. 17 days away from a 300 mile ride! Again I say, What the What?! If only bike trailers were allowed on this ride. I'm sure there would be some manly-man out there who would love to tow me while I read novels and sing songs. I would be so encouraging and not a bike-trailer driver at all. I'd say things like, "Wow! Look at your calf muscles! They are beautiful. They'll be even more beautiful if you go a bit faster and give me a bit more of a breeze. Keep up the good work!" and, "Would it help if I dumped out this jug of gin and tonic? What if it were only a half gallon jug? Do you want to share it? I suppose you could have a sip at the next rest stop if there's any left." I'm pretty much like a life-coach and professional encourager.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Ode to My Training Partners

For my inaugural post on this blog, I would like to take a moment to pay tribute to the two biggest assets to my training: my training partners. Miguel and Bert** are two wonderful guys who are really going above and beyond the call of normal friend duty by spending absolutely endless hours on their bikes with me, despite the fact that they are not training for anything AT ALL. While my unwavering commitment to the bike is inspired by the fact that I have committed to riding for five days straight, and want to avoid being in extreme agony the entire time, they have no made no such commitments. I mean, it’s possible that they’ve made a personal commitment to, like, looking really good in spandex by the summer’s end, or sporting serious quad muscles (in which case, check and check!), they’re not on a training timeline. Which makes all those hours with me all the more altruistic, people.

Because let me tell you, I am not kidding when I say that training with me is not always fun and games! Just ask Miguel. He can tell you about the time I mapped our routes online, but then only peered dismissively at the elevation profile and said “looks super duper fun!” because I really couldn’t read it, only to discover later that the middle 15 miles of our ride were soul-sucking, non-stop hills. Or the time when I made a totally bone-headed move and had an altercation with a tourist by the Jefferson Memorial that caused me to fall dramatically off my bike in front of maybe 30 people, all of whom screeched in horror. This fall caused me no real injuries—only a great deal of embarrassment—but very nearly gave Miguel a heart attack. Both of my training buddies could also tell you about the many times I talked absolutely nonstop nonsense to them every time I was in earshot, or glared resentfully at them as they effortlessly careened up hills while I slogged up slowly as a turtle with leg cramps, or asked them a question about my bike that I probably should have figured out back in fourth grade. Fun times, right?!

I also demand a lot of my training partners. I had not really been on a bike for, ohhhhh, a shameful number of years at the time I started training for this ride, as Bert can attest. I have taken to calling Bert “Coach” (which I enjoy greatly because it makes me feel like a huge jock) because he literally had to teach me how to do everything. When we first started riding I could barely shift gears without falling off my bike. I was also deathly afraid of going faster than 13 mph, even DOWN HILL. Once, when Bert and I were riding the Mt Vernon Trail, he actually pulled over in (amused??) frustration and asked if I had a piece of paper or something that he could use to cover up my bike speedometer, because I was going so fracking slowly he assumed I was just alternating between obsessing about my potentially-deadly speed and gripping the brakes like a maniac. In true coach-y fashion, Bert has also taken to sometimes riding behind me, especially when we’re doing hills, to see if he can diagnose ways to improve my shady biking technique, a tactic which has been highly successful. He even gives positive feedback when I do something that is supposed to be profoundly easy but is actually stupid difficult (e.g. drinking water while riding a bike)!

Seriously, both these guys are absolute champs. I expect that at any moment they will sprout little spandexy angel wings. Miguel and Bert, I salute you. Now, who’s up for a 50-miler this weekend?? And the next?

**I have given my biking buddies code names to protect their privacy and to ensure that no other biking ladies swoop in and steal them from me. “Miguel” is after Miguel InduraĆ­n, a Hispanic cyclist and all-around great guy, much like my biking buddy. “Bert” is just a funny bastardization of his real name. I get a kick out of it.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Things I've Learned While Training for TRAM

When I told Steff that I would, in fact, sign up to ride 300 miles in 5 days with her, there are a number of things I didn't know....things that might have swayed my decision. Here are a few of those things:
  1. I had no idea how expensive fancy bike gear and special outfits were! Or maybe I did, but I thought "I don't need those silly things! I have shorts and t-shirts - good enough!" Wrong. Turns out those padded shorts that look comical on even the fittest cyclist are necessary - and spendy. It also turns out that if you buy those shorts too big, you will end up regretting it.
  2. Enter: Chamois Butt'r lotion. Yes, this is a real thing, and yes, it is what it sounds like. It's cream that you rub all over the insides of your shorts to avoid chafing. It, too, is not cheap. The verdict is still out on whether or not this is as necessary as the shorts themselves.
  3. Those gloves you see bikers wearing? Not just for show! As it happens, your hands get very sore from holding on to the handlebars for hours on end. I now own a $25 pair of gloves that are supposed to remedy that, but really only serve to reduce the pain, not prevent it. They do make me look pretty hard core, though, and that's worth $25.
  4. I did not know that once I convinced Jeff to join in on the fun he would start using me as a water mule. Because he has replaced his water cage with a water bottle sized iPod speaker (see where his priorities are?), he has no place for his water. That's where the pockets on the back of my shirt come in. On a number of occasions, he has almost run me off the road trying to retrieve his water without stopping.
  5. I drink more water than any human being ever in the history of the world (this may be a slight exaggeration). I base my bike route on the number of places I can stop to refill my water bottle. I ration oh-so-carefully from stop to stop so that I don't turn into a Thirsty Monster. Occasionally Jeff's water mule has actually consumed his water instead of just carrying it. Today I ordered a CamelPak hydration backpack thing, which should help the situation.
That all said, I totally would have still said "yes" when Steff asked if I wanted to do this. It's a challenge, but it's fun. Tonight I did a 27 mile ride after doing 33 miles on Saturday and 20 on Sunday. My legs are a little sore, but I think I'll be ready by July 26th. I THINK. Fingers crossed!


Monday, July 6, 2009

Oh, Beautiful Lake Superior

I have been pretty ho-hum about my training. I am a procrastinator by nature. I was this way in middle school, high school, college, and now follow the same patterns in work and parenting. It usually works just fine for me, although my darling husband, Erin, may say otherwise.

I am quickly realizing that procrastination will not work for this biking situation I have gotten myself into. Procrastination is obviously my Enemy #1, but I have found another enemy, one cloaked in the beauty of water and rocks.

I've done some rides, but no more than 30 miles at one time. I would like to argue that the 26 mile ride along the Scenic Highway from Duluth to Two Harbors counts as AT LEAST 35 miles. It was hilly. It was windy. It was no fun at all. My only inspirations were the well-defined calf muscles my riding partner sports. I thoroughly enjoyed drafting off of him and thinking about what my calves could look like if I were to ride my bike a little more.

I also did a 15 mile ride along Lake Superior from Judge Magney State Park to our hotel in Grand Marais. From the car it looked like it would be a beautiful ride. The lake on my left, wild flowers in the ditches to my right. However, I feel like the Lake might have something against me. Could it really have been all up hill? And could the wind be blowing very forcefully against me the whole way? Oh, and thank you, Lake, for the wonderful drizzle. I really needed that to cool off in the 50-ish degree weather. Also, could any of you who may walk your dogs on this stretch of the highway please pick up any doody your precious animals may leave? It distracts me from hating the Lake so much, something I need to devote all of my energy to.

I finished both of these rides along the beautiful Lake Gitchi Gummi and felt like a better person for it. But I am so grateful for the TRAM Ride being nowhere near this lake that hates me.


Hello everyone! Thanks for visiting our TRAM blog: TRAMmer Time!

The Ride* Across Minnesota (TRAM) officially starts July 26th, but up until then, the 4 of us will be making some posts about our training and fundraising efforts, among other things (cries for help, pleas of desperation, complaints about the pain, etc). During TRAM, we'll be Mobile Blogging. That sounds pretty fancy, doesn't it? We thought it would be fun for our friends & family to see how we're doing. (i.e. to make sure we're still alive periodically). We might even post a few pictures along the way!
* Note to Jeff: the R in TRAM stands for RIDE, not RACE. Please try to remember that. Thanks.