Saturday, November 27, 2010

Trusting an old friend

It's been a while since I rode outdoors, let alone solo. But on Thanksgiving Day, just about the time most people were sitting down to their enormous feasts, I set out on a spontaneous ride. With no clue of the route I'd take or how long I would ride, I inflated the tires of my trusty Trek, jammed some gel & shot blocks in my pocket, filled the water bottles, and set out into the cold. The sun was out earlier but I quickly discovered that it was much colder than I had anticipated. Clad only in a Sugoi baselayer, long sleeved jersey, vest & knickers, but with 2 pairs of wool socks, I didn't warm up as much as I would have liked. But I figured that would just make me ride harder, make it count. Right?

Thoughts invade my mind as I pedal, across TV Highway and onto River Road. Got the pump, spare tubes. I have my cell phone. Does anyone know where I'm going? No, even I don't know the answer to that. Wow, there's a lot of gravel and stuff in the bike lane, good thing there's not much car traffic. I'm cold. Pedal harder. I'll be fine, because I trust my bike. It's like an old friend, when we get together, I'm reminded of all the good times we've had. I remember my first ride on this bike, a 70 mile LiveStrong challenge, then my first century. Good times. I smile.

What's great about riding solo is that you can go as fast or a slow as you want, without having to wait for anyone else (or have them wait for you). No forced listening to conversations you have no interest in. No worrying about yelling "car back" to people in front of you or having it yelled at the person who continues to ride next to you and talk to you as you wish for solitude.

Solo. That word has come to define part of who I am. On holidays, and sometimes, on bike rides. But it's a good thing. It's okay. I'm okay with it. I do some of my best thinking on these rides.

So I decide to pass the time thinking of what I'm grateful for. Seems like a good tradition on a Thanksgiving ride. First I think of my lungs, as they fill with air and oxygen to fuel my body. Lungs are good. Then, my legs, working like pistons, knees up, light on the pedals. Then I'm grateful for the turkey bacon and pumpkin pancakes I made for breakfast, for a kitchen to cook them in, for the ability to ride and to enjoy this day.

On Burkhalter Road, I stop to eat some gel, as I'm getting hungry and wishing I had eaten a bit more before leaving so late in the day. I look up at the sun filtered through hazy clouds and give it credit for at least trying to shine through them to bring some warmth. I don't want to wait long because I'm still cold. I consider crossing Highway 47 on Simpson Road, riding past the golf course and back through Cornelius and estimate how much time this will take. On a warmer day, maybe starting earlier, or wearing another layer, this would be a no brainer. But on this day, I decide to cut the ride short and continue to Hillsboro on Minter Bridge Road. I know this is the right thing to do.

I stop to talk to some pygmy goats along the road, who are bleating at me through the chainlink fence. They are incredibly cute! I feed them some handfuls of grass until the dogs start barking at the unwelcome intruder, and I continue on. I get to Main Street, which turns into Baseline. I consider making the ride longer, but at this point I can only think about hot chocolate.

Arriving home, I patiently enter the code to open my garage door but it refuses to comply. I consider how miserable it would be to spend hours shivering on my front porch, and contemplate breaking into my house. The thermometer on my porch says about 38 degrees if I read it right. Just as I take a tire lever to pry the screen off a window, I try the code once more and the door opens. Warmth, hot chocolate, a down blanket, a hot bubble bath. Then a delicious meal.

This is my Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Training with Grain

Last week, I came across this on the Bob's Red Mill website after seeing it on Twitter: "Train with Grain: Welcome Aboard the Pain Train". I like the sound of that! Turns out, there is this cool contest where you can win a 'cross bike for racing - AND - they send you a free sample kit! Sign me up! This morning I went to my mailbox and there it was!
It was like my birthday, or Christmas! I opened the box, so excited to see what was inside. An armband to wear when I race! And this is no wimpy sample pack - there were regular-sized packages of quinoa, 7-grain pancake & waffle mix, steel cut oats, and whole ground flaxseed meal. Score!

This company does things right. Social media, recipe contests, blogging. And they are a sponsor of the cross crusade. How can you not love them?

If you want some great healthy grains, love to race 'cross and want a chance to win a bike, check out this site: Good luck, and enjoy the grain - but the bike is MINE!

Cross Season, Flo-style

After all that hesitation, I showed up at PIR with my bike last Sunday, and I rode it. In the mud. Lots and lots of mud. And I had the best time! I was apprehensive but didn't want to pre-ride the course - no, I'd get too tired. The weather was wet, windy and fortunately, not too cold. I had run out of excuses - I had skinny tires on my bike, thanks to Victor! So I signed up. Pinned on a number. Sort of warmed up. Lined up. And I raced! Okay, I rode. And I had a blast!

I wasn't fast, and the first lap kind of hurt. I didn't crash, but just kept pedaling around the corners, through the mud and the puddles that were really small ponds. The water was warm in my shoes. I didn't really run up the run-ups. I hucked that heavy bike over the barriers, one tire at a time. I heard my name everywhere and didn't look up but I wondered, how do so many people here know me? I heard cowbells. I saw the face of a little girl cheering for me as I rode by, which made me smile. I tried to go faster on the pavement. I cheered for Traci, Sherry, Sierra, Kendra, and Heidi when they passed me. I managed to do 3 laps and was ecstatic to see the flag signaling the end of the race.

I caught up with Melanie, Kendra, and Tina after the race to catch our breath, pose for pictures and swap stories about the course. I felt great, like I had actually accomplished something. Who cares if I was almost last? What matters is that I had fun.

I wasn't up for paying for 2 days of racing in Astoria. I signed up for Sunday and showed up in my costume, which I'd been really excited about for months (Thanks to Traci for finding it on Etsy!). Then I saw Melanie & Kendra, who informed me that they'd decided not to race. I promptly declared that if they weren't racing, neither was I. But in the team tent, when people asked if I was racing, I answered with a shrug. As it got closer to the start time, I reluctantly agreed to ride one lap. Sure, I can do one lap. I rode over and lined up literally 2 minutes before they started sending off groups of women. Finally, the start, left turn, then right, into the mud, past the PV tent, left and over the barriers, and suddenly we were being told to slow and stop. There had been a crash, so they re-started all the women. So, I did ride an entire lap and then some. Past the place where they stopped us, I coasted past Ali and promptly fell on the off-camber turn. Couldn't unclip from my right pedal! Argh. I made it and struggled to get up the long hill, then I think I wiped out again on the sharp z-turn. Wound my way through the barns, spotting Kender with my camera yelling "Come on, Flo!" which made me laugh. When I got to the PV tent again, I pulled over and put my bike down, unnoticed. It was no big deal, I just decided I was done.

I'll post pictures later.