Thursday, March 29, 2007

Dropped and Picked Back Up

On Tuesday nights there's a group ride out at Poor Farm Park, a really nice systems of trails about 30 minutes up the road. This is usually an easy drive unless you leave right at 5pm when everyone else in the rest of the world is also leaving work and pushing their way up 95. Oof.

Because of this I don't often make it out for this ride, but the weather on Tuesday was so freaking globally WARMED, that I couldn't resist. I paid for that lack of restraint, people.
Now, when I arrived, two groups formed for this ride - a beginner women's group and a "fast" mixed group. My friend Paula was riding fast and I didn't want to be left out. I'm also not a beginner, so it would've been a little unfair of me to tag along with the slower-paced ride. But lo, I was spanked anyway.

The woman who led the fast ride is as nice as she can be but she is a devil on the bike. A DEVIL. She took off like a bat out of hell through the flats and I held on mid-pack like a champ. I really did fine for quite a while, but after the third steep climb my legs were screaming at me and in my pain-fogged state I picked a bad line and stalled out mid-hill. Dang. This means going to the back of the line which is so, so much harder. It seems like it would be less pressure, but you don't have that group-pull anymore and it's easier to get dropped. (Also, when you're in the back and the group stops to rest, they only stop until you catch up, so YOU never get to rest. It stinks, but that's the way it is.)

And oh, how I did get dropped. We hit a deeply muddy hill and I finally had to get off and push. When I got to the top of the hill, they were gone. Gone, and three possible choices for which direction. This is bad group ettiquette, but I picked the fast group, they didn't pick me. I did find and catch up with them only to get dropped again when the trail branched and I picked the wrong direction.

This was pretty much the theme for the rest of the night. Ride fast on the flats and catch them, only to be dropped on the climbs. Gotta work on those climbs, I guess. It was really frustating but I'm sort of used to it by now. Most of these folks have years and years of cycling experience on me, a fact that I have to keep reminding myself when I'm feeling sucky about my lack of skillz.

Last night was also beautiful weather-wise and though I'd really intended on going to the gym, I just couldn't face being inside after being at a desk all day. Kenny and I decided on an easy-parts version of the Big Loop and in the middle of the pedestrian staircase on the fireroad we ran into a couple of friends (hi, Lisa!) who were heading back the way we'd just come. Perfect! This was our ticket out of riding Forest Hill, so we followed them back, did a loop around the top of Belle Isle and rode the North Trail the other way back home. All in all we were only out an hour and a half, but it was a relaxing ride and sure beat the hell out of going to the gym.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Spring Cleaning, Spring Training

Don't you love when you write an entire entry and Blogger eats it? Damn. I'm never as witty on the second go round.

So, as I said in my last entry, there was riding on Sunday. It was a gorgeous day - 65 degrees and sunny. We spent the morning being good and making up for our homeowner slackness for the past, oh, three years, and did stuff around the house all morning in preparation for house guests who are coming to stay in a little more than a week. I really don't want my extended family to know the level of filth we normally live in, so stuff had to be done.

We managed to get a lot accomplished and celebrated with an afternoon ride. Our usual Sunday posse was out on their road bikes (not me. Hate traffic.) so we did our usual big loop, just the two of us. Poor K. Always having to ride with me. We're boring and could have packed up the bikes and driven somewhere different, but it's so much easier to just jump on the bikes and go, you know?

We did all the usual trails and crossed the loathed pedestrian bridge which was filled with weekend weirdos - all walking four-abreast and laden with dogs and radios and coolers and the like. We try so hard to be respectful and yield to pedestrians, but when they're rude and gross, it gets harder and harder. Hate. Ped. Bridge.

We finally got to the peaceful and painful Forest Hill Park trails. I've talked about the trails before, but not really the park. It's a big expanse of fields, with an inner ring of hilly woods. At the bottom of the ring is a big stone walkway that circles what used to be a lake and is now a weird swampy area. I miss the lake - they drained it a few years ago after the last bad hurricane, I think. Too much flooding. Forest Hill originally was an amusement park (which closed in 1925) and it still has a sort of haunted decrepit glamour about it. The park time forgot. I love it, even if the trails make me hurt. And they did. Forest Hill was also the location of the coolest thing we saw on yesterday's ride:

I was riding up a switchback turn and heard something moving fast to my left. I turned my head around and stopped dead - two deer were hightailing it at full speed through the woods. I'm not sure what set them off but it was fantastic to watch them go. So cool to see something like that in the middle of the city.

Anyway, I did much better than on Thursday. I'm still a little horky but it didn't slow me down as much. Please don't misunderstand - I'm still SLOW, just not as slow. Kenny made me lead on the way home and I found that I ride much better (technically and speed-wise) if I've got a little pressure behind me. I'm much less likely to walk something I don't like the looks of if I have someone behind me. It makes me a better rider and I really should take the lead more often. There, I said it. Now I have to do it.

It's going to be 87 degrees tomorrow (!!!) so I think that means I have to go ride. I'll let you know what happens.

Friday, March 23, 2007

More Whining

I know, I know. It's 80 degrees out and sunny and I got to ride my bike and all I could do was wheeze and complain about it. Well, I had to wait and get my breath back first, but then I complained, bitterly. I'm allergic to whatever devil seed is currently in bloom right now and it's making me REALLY CRANKY.

You know how when you have a bad cold and you can't breathe and you're completely out of breath and all heart- palpitatey after climbing a short staircase or something? That was me last night after every hill climb. Little ones, big ones, didn't matter. I was weezy and miserable and SLOOOOOOW. So, so slow. Apparently those lungs really come in handy with the cardio stuff, huh? It was so annoying because it was such a perfect day and I could barely hack the exact same trails I rode two short days ago.

The final nail in the coffin was the long hill coming off the Boulevard bridge on the way home. It was the last climb of the day and I was tired and winded. K. and our friend P. (who are both damn good cyclists) decided to get it over with quickly, while I was just concentrating on turning the pedals. I put my head down to get my weight forward and when I looked up they were freaking HALFWAY UP THE HILL. I'd barely touched it. I could only laugh or cry and I wanted to do both at the same time.

Home was lovely - beer, burritoes and a hot shower. I was exausted and in bed by 10pm. I think the next ride will be Sunday, so for all one of you who's reading this, look for the next installment on Monday. Woot.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Stitch in Time

Woo, so yesterday K. and I decided that it was warm enough and we were recovered enough to try that riding thing again. I actually took Monday off from exercise (which is unheard of for me) because I wasn't feeling too spry. Yesterday my spry was back so we hit the trails after work. We did the "big loop" we often do (cross Boulevard bridge, ride Northside trail, cross scary ped bridge, ride Belle Isle loop, cross smaller ped bridge, ride fire road to Forest Hill, ride Forest Hill loop, limp home.)

This time we skipped the loop on the top of Belle Isle because there were too many people and dogs and strollers everywhere and we decided to give that time to a slow lap in Forest Hill. Now, Forest Hill is a thing. It's a few miles of mostly pain. It will hurt you. You will either be going right straight up, or right straight down, with some curvy stuff in between. The last quarter-ish mile is all flat fast twisty stuff which I LOVE. I could do that all day. I sometimes take the turns too fast and crash, but it's totally worth it.

Anyway, we ride the big loop and somewhere in the middle I start to get a stitch in my side, something that generally only happens to me when I try to do something stupid, like jog. I almost never get a stitch from mountain biking and it was really absurdly painful. We got to Forest Hill and I decided to suck it up and keep riding. The stitch was very much still there and hurt more when I hit a bump, which is pretty much all you do when you're riding on rooty singletrack. I mean, it's made of bumps! ow. ow. OW. Ow. ow. ow. OW. Like that. Then it stopped worrying about the bumps and just hurt more when I breathed, which, um, I couldn't really avoid doing. Dang, that hurt. But I finished the lap! I am no quitter and we got a good hour and a half ride in last night. That was sweet. (I did some Internet research on the stitch and apparently the pain is caused by my liver bouncing off my spastic diaphram. Awesome, if by awesome I mean gross.)

Coolest thing seen last night: There's this narrow little singletrack that runs between a fence and a tree-covered hillside that takes you to the fire road. It's mostly unoccupied because there's a wider river-access trail further down the hill. However, last night there were GOBS of people on this narrow cut-through, most of them wan, be-studded punk rock kids who made me all nostalgic. When we were clear of them I looked over at K. and asked, "Do you think they realize they're, like, outside? During the daytime?"

Monday, March 19, 2007


That's how I feel right now. Something is BLOOMING and I am an allergy nightmare. Ah, spring. Which isn't until tomorrow. This was made very clear to me yesterday when we went for a very, very brisk Sunday ride. In my mind I thought it would be a brief it's-cold-and-we're-all-still-sick kinda group ride but oh ho ho! Joke's on me.

Because of the torrential rain on Thursday and Friday, we decided to go to Powhite Park, which is about a mile (or so) from our house. Powhite is special for a few reasons: it's really nearby, it's not terribly popular, it drains like crazy. When every other trail in town is mushy, Powhite is dry as a bone, mostly because it's a small wooded park on the side of a hill with a tiny wetlands at the bottom.

I have no idea why it's not more popular, as it's the perfect little storm of fast flats, hill climbs and technical stuff, including a fun series of ravine drop-ins. It's also never crowded and you won't usually get spit on by hikers and trail runners. Here is a short list of cool stuff I've seen at Powhite:

- snakes
- a whole herd of deer
- beaver-chewed trees
- a snowy owl pouncing on a squirrel (that wasn't cool so much as horrifying)

Anyway, we have a regular group of friends that we ride with on Sunday and we all froze our asses off riding over to the park. I think the high was maybe 50 degrees and it was windy. I'd make a lousy road biker because I hate riding into wind. And near cars. We got to the park and did a warm-up lap that felt like slow death. Legs full of ball bearings. It was the kind of warm-up where I kept checking to make sure I didn't have a flat tire, so slow was my bike.

Ha, don't you love how I blame the slowness on my BIKE. THAT WOULD BE ME. Anyway, after a few laps I started feeling a lot better and we rode at a good pace for another hour. I led the group for a while and that felt good too, though I always over-compensate. Eventually I started getting pretty tired and the consensus was that we'd do one more lap. We did, and then they kept going, right past the gate. Wah? Wah! They missed the gate! It's RIGHT THERE, PEOPLE. OUR TICKET TO LUNCH.

I was (regrettably) getting a little whiny and also a little bit closer to bonk territory than I'm comfortable with. We hit a hill that I can normally climb pretty well and I was so far behind the group that I felt like I was going in slow motion. We rode another lap, and another. I started walking stuff I normally ride because I was so tired I was afraid I'd crash. We finally headed home and I was completely glad I'd skipped the race last weekend because clearly I was not anywhere near race-ready. I am soft, people, and it is sad. We were out for two and a half hours and I felt like I'd been hit by a truck when we got home. I can't wait until the weather gets warm and I can get to that perfect summer bike fitness where you feel like you can ride forever. I miss that.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Apparently I'm only happy when it rains.

Another ride oh my God. When I got off work yesterday it was starting to get cloudy and the forecast was calling for showers and/or thunderstorms. F that noise, I said, lets ride anyway. So we did. Before we left we fortified ourselves with a square of uber-dark chocolate that made me me sputter "Whereth tha thugar??" Seriously, I like dark chocolate but maybe with slightly more or even some sugar? Just a little?

For this ride we knew our time was limited so we rode down to the bridge and stayed on the Southside. We traveled on the Buttermilk Heights trail (where a tired dog drooled on my leg) to Forest Hill Park and rode a somewhat short-cutty lap there. As we were riding, the clouds got darker, the temperature dropped, uh, a lot, and the wind started to pick up. It was really really cool. We were in the woods when all this was happening and it was dark and spooky in a good way. All weirdly still and blowy at the same time. Shockingly, we were pretty much the only people there. Wusses!

Ah, but, the minute we finished up at Forest Hill the skies opened and it began to rain. Then it rained harder. Then harder. We had a short ride home from Forest Hill park back to our house, maybe two miles, but it feels a lot further when you're cold and soaked to the skin. It was worth it, though. I had K take my picture when we got home. I'm not dry:

K cleaned off the bikes and showers were taken and a healthy dinner was prepared:

Isn't that ridiculous? It was good, as were the brownies we ate afterwards. BROWNIES. Dang, they were good.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

A ride! A ride! Not even kidding!

Yesterday was completely sucktastic for me and K was still feeling a little hork-y, so when we got home from work we decided to do a mellow "easy parts" ride (read: we did the big loop sans Forest Hill). The weather was glorious yesterday and I could feel my body sucking in the vitamin D all crazy with the lack of warmth and sun. It could be 80 degrees every day for the rest of my life and I'd be okay with that. (Actually, that's not true but right now it feels true.) Anyway, we got suited up (SHORT SLEEVES YAY) and rode from our house to the Boulevard Bridge, rode across the bridge (rebels!) and down to the North Trail. Almost immediately we ran into a few friends and being that it was a casual ride, we spent a few relaxed minutes catching up and then continued on our way.

One of my favorite things about a casual ride (as opposed to a training ride or group ride) is that you can stop and be all, "Look at that! Isn't that cool?" and you can stop and dig the view without anyone getting annoyed with you for holding up the line. Cool things we saw yesterday:

- one of the Maymont bears
- a fat groundhog hauling ass up a hill
- lotta rednecks
- beautiful sunset
- our friend Glenn's 29er

We continued on across the ped bridge (hate) and rode the top of Belle Isle before heading over to the fire road. We then contemplated riding Forest Hill, then wisely decided there wasn't enough daylight left and rode back to the bridge on the Buttermilk Heights trail, which I lurve. I do, Heights is the bomb.

So that's the first after-work ride of 2007 and it was a really good one. It cleared my head of the crap I'd dealt with earlier in the day and I slept like a baby last night which is the best benefit of all.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Bike Brain

Bike Brain: You can't ride, so you obsess about the bike stuff you'd like to buy. For my husband this is usually some sort of component but I'm not interested in components, unless it's going to make my bike 10 pounds lighter and also involves a small motor that makes it go faster as well. Really, I'm not mechanic-minded and as long as stuff works, I don't care what brand it is or how many grams it weighs or whatever.

That said, I do want to look cool. I recently decided that my bike socks weren't nearly fancy enough and they didn't seem to be sending the message I had in mind, so I bought these:

Apparently the message I'm trying to send is: I miss art school, but whatever, I like them and I think they're cute without being the least bit girly. I don't do girly on my bike. There will be no frills, no pink, no cuteness of that ilk on me or my bike. I like my shoes black, my jersey subtle, my sunglasses dark. It's actually a good thing I like my bike shoes black because GOOD LUCK trying to find a pair of women's mountain bike shoes that aren't dorky and sneaker-esque or, just as bad, $120. There are approximately 8,000 different options for men and like, two, for women, both out of stock. Therefore, I have to buy boy shoes that don', but at least they're black and basic. And they go with my skull socks.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Because nothing sucks more than a blog with one entry

There will be more coming, but in the meantime here's some of my old D-land entries that involve bike stuff:

Bike Racing in 12 easy steps:

a few nice pictures here:

Thoughts on the whole 18 hour race thing:

Urban Assault 2006:

Poor Farm Spring Cup, 2006:

Because I need another blog like a hole in the head.

Hi, it's Amblus and apparently I'm bored and need another stupid blog. This one is going to be all my mountain biking and cycling-related crap because maybe it'll actually get updated unlike my Diaryland nonsense. We'll see.

Yesterday was the first race of the season and I...was not there. Between the time change, the new REALLY early start time for Sport Women (wtf?) and a hacking cough I can't seem to shake, it just didn't seem like the time to start getting competitive. See also: hadn't been on my bike in nearly two weeks. Spinning class, while a nice diversion, isn't the same thing. Spinning amuses me because it's the exact opposite of what you actually do in real life. I once complained to the instructor that the "downhill" sections didn't make any sense to me because who pedals rillyrilly fast downhill? Why aren't we pretending to coast? I got a dirty look for that one.

Anyway, I did do a short ride yesterday just to get back in the game - we did the North Trail, Belle Island and I did half of Forest Hill before I had to leave to go to a meeting. As I suspected, my chest congestion was SUPER F'ING HELPFUL on the hill climbs. *hork*

It's supposed to be beautiful later this week, so hopefully I'll get out after work one day, now that daylight savings time has come, robbing me of my precious sleep.