Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Like putting on an old sweater....

The lawns needed mowing, my office renovation was still incomplete and we were expecting family for Sunday dinner in a few hours. So, looking at the yard, the house and the sun shining outside I did what any good, responsible parent and husband would do....I got the road bike out, put air in the tires, wiped off the layer of dust and clipped in for a nice quick ride.

I haven't been on the road bike but a couple of times since the Tahoe ride back at the beginning of June.  Its not that I haven't been riding, I've been trying to get in at least one or two a week, but they've all been on the mountain bike which is more about short, intense efforts than a longer sustained ride.

What would this be like? Would I be strong? Fast? Smooth? Would I remember how to shift?

As it turns out, clipping in was a lot like putting on an old sweater. At the beginning of the season, I invested an afternoon and had Chris over at Eden Bicycles spend some time and do an actual professional fitting of my bike.  Granted, I'm not a racer, I don't get paid to ride my bike and at the level that I'm at, the fit probably doesn't really affect my performance too dramatically.  What the fitting did do though was make my bike, my bike. 

From the moment I clipped in everything fell exactly where it was supposed to. My hands rested on the hoods perfectly, my fingers found the brifters with no hesitation or missed shifts, the reach to the bars was exactly in the perfect place to allow me a nice flat back and a comfortable pedal stroke....yep, its definitely my bike....where have you been she asked?

The time off the bike though did take its toll.  My pedal stroke was jerky and felt more like pushing pistons than making smooth circles.  Thankfully the first part of the ride, down Union City Blvd is with the wind and although there's not much shoulder, traffic on a sunday afternoon was light and the cars that did go by were all polite and moved over to pass.

At the end of Union City Blvd, I jumped on to the Alameda Creek trail and turned east....suddenly, the tailwind that had moved me along so nicely was a crosswind and immediately my pace slowed. My gps had died within a block of leaving the house so I had no idea how fast or slow I was going.

My previous best time for today's loop was 1 hour even. The route is 21 miles and on my best day finishing in an hour took a combination of me killing myself and the wind cooperating with and not fighting me. Today, knowing I hadn't been on the bike in a while and with no idea of my average speed, all I could do was turn myself inside out trying to maintain a pace that kept me right on the redline.

As I got to the end of the Alameda Creek trail and turned north on to Mission Blvd, the annoying sidewind became a full-on headwind and the work really began.  I had been keeping my pace high, trying to make smooth fast circles in the hopes that I could at least get close to my personal best, but the wind and the pain in my legs were leading me to realize that this was not going to be my day.

I continued to push myself, sweat running in to my eyes before being dried into a crust by the wind blowing in my face, my legs were definitely beginning to fade and my water bottle was empty....still I tried to keep the pace as high as possible as I made the turn west onto Industrial Blvd.  The last leg, the final push and thankfully, the wind had returned to being just an annoying crosswind.

Evidently, Industrial Blvd isn't one of the main bike routes in Hayward. Or, if it is, the City is really falling down on the job as I spent as much time dodging glass, wood, and various other types of debris as I did forcing my legs to continue going round and round.

Eventually, as I turned back on to Hesperian and then on to my own street I was able to sit up and cool down.  Coasting into my driveway I pushed the "end ride" button on the Strava app on my cell phone and immediately saw that despite my best efforts, today was not going to be my day.

Distance: 21.0 miles
Time: 1:11
Avg Speed: 17.5mph

Maybe I need to start spending a little more time on the road bike....even though it fits like an old sweater, the motor may need a bit of a tune up.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Circles of Life...

As I typed the above title, I was immediately transported back to the theater with my kids where the wise old baboon or monkey or whatever it is, held the lion cub up in the air and everyone celebrated.....unfortunately these past couple of weeks have not been like that at our house.

It's been a rough couple of weeks with my grandson falling and breaking his arm, Deb's dads surgery and subsequent passing, followed immediately (as in 3 days later) by her brother's sudden and unexpected passing.  Add to this all the arrangements and funerals for the two family members which only stretch out the grief and mourning process and you can see how the past two weeks might conservatively be classified as total SUCKAGE.

Now, I completely understand and believe that everything in our lives is part of God's plan and works to His glory.  I also completely understand that, in the grand scheme of life there are people that have and will continue to deal with issues much more overwhelming than those my family is facing.  But knowing something  in your head and dealing with it in your own life are two different things.

Sometimes, as we wander through the darker valleys in our lives we can begin to believe that things will always be this way and that we'll never see the sunshine again.  If you don't take a step back and get a little bit of perspective, its easy to believe that the current situation is the way its always been and always will be.

Its at those times that I know I need to get on the bike and clear out the cobwebs.  Its at those times that I need to not think about the circle of life, but instead need to think about different circles....small, continuous circles made with my legs that allow my brain to shut off and check out and get all the voices in my head to shut the heck up for a while.

Thankfully, this past weekend was a three day holiday weekend and, while I had a couple of different options for group rides, I instead decided to take the single speed out for a solo suffer-fest therapy session at Chabot.  I was amazed as I showed up at the parking lot to find every single spot full and ended up parking across the road in a construction lot. This does not bode well for time alone on the bike.  Once I got on the bike and away from the lake though, I only saw a few other groups of people.  Mostly hikers, but a couple of cyclists as well.

The ride was actually pretty uneventful. Long periods of suffering on the climbs, followed by too short periods of trying to get my heart rate under control on the flats and downhill sections.  The weather was hotter than I expected and I stopped whenever I felt like it to let my bike have a rest (She needed, I didn't of course

take photos, sit on a bench or straddle my top tube and stare at the view.   As I usually do, I tried to hammer myself into a state of mindlessness on the uphill sections and took it easy on the flats and downhills.  After a couple of decent crashes in the past year, I've finally realized I'm not invincible and healing takes a lot longer than it used to.

It wasn't until about half way through the ride that I finally reached my happy place. As I stopped at one of my favorite turnouts to enjoy the view and have a gel, it dawned on me just how blessed our family really is.   Did the previous couple of weeks suck? Definitely! Were there going to be some hard times in the future? Absolutely! Does losing family members, no matter what age bite? No Doubt!
BUT, we also have much to be thankful for....we have an amazing family to help us through the tough times, we have roofs over our heads, jobs that pay us, food on the table and a God who loves us enough to share our hurt and our burdens....

As I got back in the truck to head home, knowing I had the same issues waiting for me as when I left, I felt better.  Things were back in perspective and as with everything, this too shall pass....

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit
Psalm 34:18

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

OFF the bike....then off the bike...

Two Sunday's ago, after church, I needed to get out and ride. Lately, with life being as busy as it is, my ride time has dropped dramatically.

I really wanted to put in a good hard ride though so I brought out the SS and headed for the long loop at Chabot. The day was going great. Weather was warm, but not hot. Trail was fairly empty once I got away from the lake and I was getting a good hard ride in without killing myself.

One of the benefits to riding alone is that I can go as hard or as easy as I want. This particular day, I was going hard uphill to get a good workout, but taking it easy on the flats and downhills knowing I had no schedule and no one I had to keep up with.

Things were great....until they weren't....about 2/3rds the way around the loop after the last drinking fountain, I was zipping down a rough bumpy downhill section when my front wheel went in to a rut. - sidestory: the parks dept grades the trails with a bulldozer which doesn't do anything except drag the loose powdery stuff into the ruts. The ruts are still there, its just now they're camouflaged - Once my tire went in to the rut I heard what amounted to a large burp and my front tire was immediately flat.

This flatting of the front tire led to an interesting chain of events. 1) the handlebars wrench sideways 2) the bike comes to a sudden and immediate stop 3)the rear wheel to tries to trade places with the front wheel 4) Rich becomes airborne 5) Rich stops being airborne by impacing the ground 6) Rich slides across the ground on his shoulder, elbow and knee creating nice ovaloid sections of red, bleeding flesh at all three contact points.

It wasn't really as painful as I thought it was going to be and, to be honest, I was so worried about being seen in this predicament that I bounced up and moved to the side of the trail before anyone saw me. After quickly re-inflating the tire I mounted the bike and got back underway as quickly as possible.

The good news is that there really was no serious injury and my bike is actually fine, although my brake lever is slightly tweaked. The downside is that later as I stood in the shower trying to clean dirt and gravel from my knee, elbow and shoulder...I whined and cried like a little girl....but that's ok, because no-one saw that part of the ordeal and to all concerned I'm still a tough as nails mt biker with the scars to prove it.