Monday, August 30, 2010

Yesssss! (Part 2)

When we hit Watkins Glen (the town I was going to spend the night in a hotel in), the brothers headed on to the camp site while the rest of us headed to Watkins Glen State Park to see the water falls. Um yeah,it was gorgeous and well worth the side trip.

The next morning I set out to rejoin the group, after backtracking a tad to pick up the sunglasses I left at the place I ate the night before. It was a short but hilly ride, especially towards the end. I did have to walk up a few more hills but I figured out a strategy that ended up working fairly well for me. I would ride until I felt like my quads were about to pop out of my skin, usually focusing on a point on the road and telling myself I had to bike until at least that point, if not farther. Then I would get off the bike and walk, stopping and resting whenever I felt I needed it. And as soon as the hill started to level out, or at least get a shallower grade, I would hop back on the bike and start the process over again.

The rest of the "rest day" was fairly uneventful. A few of us drove into Ithaca (Eric's wife was with us now with her car) and grabbed a few more groceries. When we got back to the campsite, we found that the guys who had stayed behind had found a lot of blackberries and apples in the forest. That night we had berry cobbler and apple sauce to go along with the evil corn whiskey and various boxed wines we picked up in Ithaca and it was all delicious (even the corn whiskey).

Day 6 continued the turnaround for me and was awesome. I was really hitting my stride and didn't have to walk up a single fucking hill all day long! Hooray me! We did have a strong headwind that day, but it was nothing compared to the climbs of the previous days. This was also our longest day but I was feeling so good I was able to pull our pace line for a good 5 miles, my cadence and speed staying pretty steady.

Back to the headwinds for a moment, these are their own form of torture for cyclists. You feel like you've gone pretty far based on the amount of effort you're putting out, but then you look down at your bike computer or map at a rest stop and realize you've only gone 2 or 3 miles, if even that much. Disheartening.

The night we camped um, somewhat illegally, on the coast of Lake Ontario. We didn't even start a fire that night took make it that much harder for any wandering rangers to spot us. In the middle of the night we figured out why camping isn't allowed in that particular park. Evidently there's some prehistoric creature that roams around at night, making lots of noise, sniffing around, and generally scaring the shit out of unsuspecting illegal campers. Or it was some deer. Whatever.

Our night time friend.

On the last day of riding, this weak ass managed to conquer all hills again! There was one last vicious hill just a few miles from Eric's house that I had to stop about 2/3rds of the way up, but that was less due to ability and mostly because I turned to look back and when I turned around again I realized I was about to run into the curb. I took a few seconds to regain my breath then started pedaling again and finished that shit. A few more miles and that was the end. Over 300 miles in one week.

A few end of trip notes:
I think my bike computer tops out at 42 mph. I hit that speed at least twice, possibly 3 times (I didn't look down again after I hit 40 that last time) and I swear I was still accelerating one of those times I looked down and saw 42. What the hell bike computer?

I need (OK, just really really want) a touring frame the next time I do something like this. I don't think it's a coincidence that the only 2 people who got flats (raises hand, twice) were the people on road frames with road tires.

I did a much better job of packing for this trip than I did for Texas 4000 where I mailed a box of stuff home halfway through the trip and left some other things in a church donation box. The only clothing I didn't use was my bathing suit (bike shorts and sports bra FTW) and the only things I over packed on were food and fuel for cooking... 2 things I'd much rather over pack than under pack. Also, forgoing the sleeping bag for this summer trip ended up being a safe bet. A sleeping bag liner and thin sheet, combined with my spare clothes on the colder nights got me by just fine. The one thing I do want to get for future trips is a headlamp. It's an additional thing to pack, but they're small, and it would have been so much more manageable than the bike headlight I was using. Having both hands free can be a useful thing. I should probably also invest in a one-person tent at some point in the future. The 2-person I have is surprisingly small and light, and it was great on the two nights it rained when I could just bring my gear inside with me, but it's still way more space than I need when I'm the only one in it.

All that said and done, I'm already planning my next bike trip.

The rest of my time in Rochester once the biking was over was slow and relaxed and oh so pleasant. The entire trip was a blast and a much needed break for me. I'm glad I got the chance to hang out with old friends and to just get away from the hecticness that has been my work recently. I was joking around with Eric and the others that since my work contract ends soon I was going to go back to work on Thursday to find a pink slip on my desk. Sadly, I wasn't that far off.

Yesssss! (Part 1)

Finger Lakes region, upstate New York

I got back from my bike trip in New York a few days ago and I'm already wishing I had just stayed up there (and not just for the glorious weather). The trip kicked my ass and frustrated the hell out of me at times but it was something I definitely needed.

The guy who put all this together, Eric, was a tent buddy of mine from the summer long, cross-country bike trip I had participated in a few years before, Texas 4000 for Cancer. The night I flew into Rochester, another tent mate of ours from that trip and his girlfriend were also stopping into town for the night before heading on to Canada, and then back to their jobs in South Korea. Holy crap, it was awesome catching up with those guys, especially since the last time I saw either of them was at Eric's wedding a couple years ago. Ahhh memories. And since this was evidently an unofficial T4K reunion week, I also found out that a couple from that trip is getting married and November, and Eric and I just missed by a few hours seeing another guy from that year who was passing through Rochester the day we were heading back into town.

Back to the actual bike trip... There were 6 of us who did the entire ride, one more who joined us for the last few days of riding, and Eric's wife came out and camped with us on our rest day. We would start on Sunday, end the following Saturday, and spend the time in between cycling and camping and even doing a little hiking in the Finger Lakes region. In addition to Eric and I there was Brett from Austin who did the original Texas 4000 ride and knew Eric and Shawn from another long distance bike ride they had done on the west coast, Eric's sister-in-law (her boyfriend was the one who joined us later), and 2 brothers from Texas who's connection to Eric and his wife I can't remember so I won't bore you with it.

Despite us starting in a drizzle that turned into a steady rain at times, the first day was pretty awesome. Like I mentioned in the last post, this was the longest distance I had ridden in a couple years, but I felt good. Our campsite that night was absolutely gorgeous, right along a river in the middle of the woods, with our own mini falls right by the campsite. It was it's own adventure just getting into and out of that campsite (had to cross that river earlier on) and those mini falls gave me my first injury of the trip (scraped up arm and huge bruise on one hip) when I slipped trying to change levels.

I busted my ass on those tiny little falls.

The second day started on a massive uphill (once we had hiked back out of the forest and crossed the river again)... that I didn't even attempt to climb on the bike. Screw that noise, I've been living in one of the flattest cities in the US for almost 4 years now and didn't want to wear myself out before the day even really started. I figured I knew my limits, and this hill was past them right now. Unfortunately that wasn't the only hill I found myself walking up. On the flip side of that, we also had some massive downhills that I dominated to the tune of 42mph.

As an aside, I really want to race Brett downhill sometime when we're both on decent bikes (he had Eric buy his for him in Rochester and pretty much his 1st time riding it was the 1st day of the trip) and not loaded down with extra gear. He was the only one who could really keep up with me on the descents... but he was actually pedaling while I was just tucking in an letting gravity and momentum do it's thing. One of the joys of being as compact as I am for my weight, is that I'm like a human ball bearing on downhills. I can tuck in real tight and gain a lot of speed in a short amount of time. This also helps me slingshot back over most or all of an uphill that closely follows a downhill. Unfortunately for me, that glorious 42mph descent was followed by the last 5 miles of that day, which was an almost constant, steep uphill, with the last bit of it on a rocky path leading to the campsite. It took me so long to finish those last few miles that the sun was setting on me as I finally made it into camp and I had to set up my tent in the almost dark.

Day 3 didn't start out much better, with about a mile of climbing once we got out of the forest. After that however, we mostly just saw rolling hills that didn't pose much trouble along the first of the finger lakes. This day I started getting really frustrated with having to walk my bike up the steeper longer hills. I knew I had nothing to prove, to myself or the others, that I was a bit out of shape and that I have barely seen a hill on a bike since I left Austin. I also knew that I was going to finish this damn trip with all my gear and under my own power whether I was on the bike or off it. But all that time off the bike was starting to weigh on me and, no lie, it was a little soul-crushing.

The next day was the shortest of the trip and mostly easy with the exception of 2 things. One, there was a deceptively long, steep, uphill that (surprise!) I had to walk up most of. In addition to the frustration, all this walking was really starting to hurt. The weight of my bike and gear (which actually wasn't that much, about 25lbs), the awkward angle I had to hold the bike at while walking it, and the cycling shoes which made it impossible to walk normally all combined to start giving me a nasty case of shin splints. I honestly didn't know what I was going to do at the next bad hill if it bot hurt to walk and ride my bike.

The other major set back for me that day was waking up to discover I started my period. With a fucking vengeance. Now, this wasn't completely unexpected. I knew I'd have to deal with this at some point on the trip, but I thought I still had another day or 2 before it started. Upstate New York does have bears in it, and I bled over, well, pretty much everything in my tent. Not a good combination.

Not this bad, but close.

And now I'll take a TMI moment and say, for women who do any sort of long distance biking or hiking or camping, menstrual cups are a godsend! They last longer than a tampon, and you only need one, versus an untold number of pads and tampons. Added bonus, no waste you have to hike out with you!

Anyways, while I was cleaning up and waiting for the rest of the group to wake up and get the day started, I decided I would stop in the last town before our campsite that night, grab a cheap hotel room, launder all my shit, and cramp and bleed in peace for one night. I told everyone it was my contribution to helping us not get eaten by bears at night. The next morning I would bike that last 10 or so miles to join the rest of the group at our rest day camp site.

The rest of the trip to continue in Part 2 when I get home from work.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I'm squeeing with excitement over here

In another day and a half I'll be on a plane heading to upstate New York for a week long self supported bike ride. It's the first time I've ever done a self supported ride (Texas 4000, while almost 10X longer a trip, was only semi self supported), my first ride with more than just a messenger bag, and I'll be doing more distance per day than I have since I still did the long weekend rides with a club down by my work. No matter, the guy who invited me up (who also did Texas 4000 with me) and I have been sending embarrassingly excited texts to each other all week.

I can't fucking wait!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Dance like nobody’s watching, because they’re probably not.

I've been thinking about some things recently, in regards to my relationship with my body and my relationship with, well, relationships, and how those interact. I was thinking about what to say here and if it was really worth saying (sadly, something I do way too often). It is worth saying, but some other wonderful ladies beat me to the punch so I'll now leave you in their capable hands.

How To Be Alone via The Bloggess; Katie Makkai's Pretty via Andrea Dorfman