Friday, April 24, 2009
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
One thing I thought I'd put up is the result of my killer biking weekend: a strained hamstring. You'd think I would learn by now. Last year I could hardly walk for 4 days after injuring my knee, I've been sidelined from soccer games multiple times with hamstring strains/pulls. Here I am after 11 hours of cycling with a fair bit of climbing with another hamstring/knee injury.
Currently I have a hard time going up stairs. That's only half true. I can get up stairs just fine with my left leg; my right, not so much.
So kids, don't try this at home (or in Germany) - don't go crazy with your rapidly aging bodies on a hill-climbing bonanza without stretching! Especially if you are A) blood relation to me and/or B) not involved in regular stretching and/or C) consciously focusing on "turning circles" instead of your usual mindless pack fodder pedal mashing technique.
Fortunately the interwebs did furnish this pearl for me:
Whew. That was close.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
So after my commute and workday I headed back home, kitted up and rode out. This is sort of a narrative of the ride.
I got back to my hotel and downed half a sandwich (yesterday's salami and gouda), called the girls, and hit the road. I had a carefully constructed route and a super map.
However, as I went out of town I climbed this big hill and when I got to the top, I had missed my turn. In the next town Hoholz, I must have spent 10 minutes scouring the map for where I was. I felt like and idiot. 20 minutes into the ride I was already lost - directions worthless. I just picked a direction and went with it. After a few turns and another 15 minutes I rode past the same intersection that I had camped at to study the map! [Inner monologue: You fool!] So I went back to where I thought I should have turned, but went on a "bike path" instead. Well, said path became a trail in short order and like the last video down there explains, the cross bike has a nose for troubled pavement.
As I came out of the woods a few kilometers later, my trail T'd with a busy street. To my surprise a dude in white and black goes streaking by on a Specialized Allez dressed in Gerolsteiner livery. Well, I jump on the pedals hoping for a replay of my last trip over here and my random encounter with a fellow cyclist...
I'm cruising on the cross rig on my way to Koblenz from Bonn on a sleepy Sunday, trying to leave the stress of the work trip out on the roads. An older guy on a Simplon (carbon fiber Austrian road bike) scoots by. I grab his wheel and follow him for a bit until I introduce myself - by almost running him over in a turn! Turns out his name is Guenther, and we become friends. As luck would have it, Guenther was feeling spritely and took me on a route through the hills north of the Rhein for 100km+. It was a good time.
END OF FLASHBACK!
So I'm on Gerolsteiner's wheel, rocking the Surly w/ downtube shifters. He's keeping a good pace but not killing it. A prudent man. I've caught my breath from the chase and we've started a long shallow climb. In between passing cars in my broken german, I ask if he minds if I tag along. "No problem."
So we introduce ourselves: Stefan, Mark. I have a new friend in Germany. :)
He's just out for an evening spin on a usual route. Boy is he fortunate. I didn't take many shots of the terrain (plenty of hills, great views - including the ruines of a monestary - gorgeous!) as we were, ya know, cycling at a pretty decent clip.
Turns out Stefan is a Civil Engineer in Frankfurt but bases himself out of Sankt Augustin. He was a very decent fellow putting up with my wheel sucking and waiting for me on decents.
Now, I know what you're thinking - "Waiting for you on decents? But aren't you gifted with great girth and doesn't gravity pull you down hills like, well, gravity?" Right you are friend, but you see in all my tomfoolery in the woods before meeting up with Steffen my rear brake cable housing popped out of the top tube boss, rendering my rear brake worthless. Now, would you bomb down a 10% grade into unknown traffic, farm animals, and slippery spring tarmac on just a front brake? I think not.
So we plugged along through hill and dale enjoying the break from last week's rains. It was gorgeous. Whenever Stefan looked over I was grinning - big time. It was fun. I think you can tell from the faces below:
A little later on Stefan offered me an option on our route: short and steep or longer and shallow. I chose short and steep - immediately we turned left and hit a wall. Likely 1.5 km long, with a top grade of 15% (according to Stefan - and I wouldn't doubt the civil engineer's terrain estimates, by the way!) it was good leg burning climbing glory. The one time I was ahead of Stefan on the road was when I burned a match to get to the top and grab this shot of him:
This climb was kind of nasty, since after the steep bit, you had a false flat to suck a little more life from you before the actual crest.
Well, after riding together for I think a solid 2 hours we parted ways back in Sankt Augustin. However, this was not before he showed me on the map a great way back to Hangelar (along the Seig river, then back along the Rhein), as well as where I should explore tomorrow: the Eiffel region!
Here's a video from the bike path along the Seig river:
Well, before I got back to the hotel I took some wrong turns, but it's ok, since I got the chance to explain this important piece of bikedom:
Here's some shots from the Nature Park paths along the Seig:
A suspension bridge across the Rhein:
Thanks again Stefan!
And to everyone else: wow, you have an incredible attention span!
Addendum: jetlag is killing me as I can't sleep - so I wanted to say, the saddle was comfy for 4.5 hours today. I didn't think about the saddle once, and usually I get uncomfortable after 1.5 hours! Is it me getting "broken in"? I don't think so. This is the first NEW saddle I've ever ridden (that's right, they've all been used...except for the Bianchi stock saddle) but it was actually "fitted" to my sit bone width by Axel at Champ Cycle. So, the moral of the story is: support your LBS and get a decent saddle. The Bontrager RL is nice (pour moi).
Anyway, I hope you can endure my blathering. It was fun to make the videos, even if low fidelity. I hope you feel like you are in Germany with me - I'd enjoy things more if you were!
P.S. I've got another post upcoming on a great post-work ride today. More video and photos to follow.
Friday, April 17, 2009
So once I realize he is talking to us, and is in no way indicating any need for help, I decide the best tactic is to ignore him. Maybe the gal next to me knows him or is responding, I don't really care, but I am looking at Z and Mom and focusing my attention there, thank you very much. So he proceeds to talk to -rather at us- because apparently all of us are making the same conclusions about the sketchiness of the situation and not responding to him as he continues the pleasantries. Well the pleasantries soon turn to an invitation...."Just wanted to let you ladies know that you are invited and welcome to attend....." guess how the sentence ends. To a house party? A singles bar? No. His CHURCH. After mentioning that he does not know whether or not we attend church,(yes thank you, you are a stranger), he proceeds to give us the address and name of his church, along with meeting times. There was no special event or anything, he just thought it would be of interest to us to know what church he attends and where they meet in case we happened to have been thinking about looking for a church home. This is all to no acknowledgment from any of us. With a sound of rejection in his voice, he backs away and gives a "Have a nice day, LADIES".
Now, I am all for inviting people to come worship the Lord or learn more about Him if they are interested. But I have never in all my "gospel bridge sharing" classes ever heard any tactic that involves a lone man approaching young women and their children at the park, leaning over the fence non-chalantly and inviting them to church. This man did not proceed to go on to the next group of people at the park and offer the same invitation, (which perhaps would have made me feel sorrow for not having assumed better motives on his part) but exits the park. Apparently we were the only persons he wanted to invite (there were some men on the same playground, I might add). So if this guy really sincerely just wants people to know about this place to worship, that's cool, but he certainly didn't present himself in a manner that made his target audience likely to listen to him. And that, I am sure, is a fundamental principle of "representing" for the Lord, if you will.
Part of why I reacted so immediately in ignoring this man today was because of the healthy way I am used to seeing my husband interact with women (whether friends or strangers). My husband has a rather admirable, and perhaps not overly common, gift for talking to women of all ages without making me, or them, I can pretty confidently assert, feel uncomfortable with the situation. Part of that is owing to the awesome women in his family, from whom he has learned much about the other gender. Part of that is owing to a sincere kindness in him, which takes his knowledge about us gals, at least in general terms, and applies it to his behavior to prevent situations in which he might be threatening or cause discomfort for our safety, etc. It has been a topic he and I have talked about recently, esp. in light of having Z as our own little lady who will one day be out in the world. It makes me very glad when I think that Z is growing up with this model of a real ladies' man.
Above you'll see a nutty, chocolate dipped pastry called a "corner." So exciting, these food names.
Below is my favorite drink over here: Granini Multifruchtsaft. It is just the right amount of sweetness and viscosity, the penultimate fruit drink. The ultimate is a mango smoothy made from proper mangos (the way Arabs and Caymanians serve it, among others I'm sure).
The corny I bought for obvious reasons. :)
Musli destroys US cereals for yummy goodness.
I also hope the recipe will help my cycling. No blood transfusions here, but I'll take an extra helping of Natural Body Power. The only power this cyclist needs, baby.
To cap it all off, I also picked up a 6-pack:
What isn't pictured was dinner: gyros and frites, as well as some weekend sustinance: bananas, bread, gouda, chocolate, and salami. That's BIO salami to you (i.e. organic auf Deutsch).
Thursday, April 16, 2009
-See anything missing in the image at right? No heater. That's right, no space heater, water, air, gas, nuclear fussion, nothin. Obscured from view is a minibar fridge which, according to thermodynamics, has to be heating more than it's cooling. So if it gets really chilly tonight I'll curl up next to the minibar to stay warm. No, not that kind of staying warm.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Found out yesterday some good friends are having their lives flipped by news of cancer. I’m a twenty-something, surely it’s too early for my friends to be battling cancer? Nope. Things look “ok” currently but removing tumors isn’t really a trivial affair. If you know who I’m talking about, please pray for them. If you don’t pray, donate to LAF or something. Some people seem to be kicked while they’re already down. May they be lifted up.
Wednesday night fights tonight. I will definitely be venting stress from this news and other emotional roller-coasters tonight. Not sure how much the body can do though, as I’m still sore from Monday’s indoor soccer romp. Turns out gunning it for an hour after a 2 month hiatus been protested by all those little stabilizer muscles in my legs/back/shoulders. At least I got a hat trick.
David is pissed he couldn’t stay with us longer. I suggested he take it out on the pedals.
I’m trying to assess the feasibility of attending the Eagle Lake Camp Cleanup Week. Who would turn down a week in the Rockies?
We’re still looking at apartments for 09-10 (10!?). The service course is becoming more of a burden on our living room, so a garage is an ever more important amenity. Enter: the duplex. When we move there will be grillage for anyone who wants to come.
I’m also trying to get the Surly back to functioning after its massive organ donation to David’s Motobecane. The only open item is the down-tube shifters. That’s right, we’re takin it old school for the cross-check. Not sure how well that’s going to perform during cross season (ha!) but for commuting and touring with the fam, it can’t be beat. I now have to find some that are relatively inexpensive (i.e. like under $90 for new Dura-Ace!).
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
David wrapped up his spring break trip to IL today. Poor kid - can't go anywhere nice, so he came to see us. We had a great time of inside jokes, bike building, and a cut-throat game of settlers where we boxed out mom in the last play. Boys rule!
Well, David and I took a 17.5 mile jaunt yesterday through hail, snow, and steady winds for his first ride on his cyclocross bike (fitted with road tires for the day). When we started I could barely get the kid to pedal as he was (understandably) skittish around the cars in town and the (relative) speeds of road tires/wheels. However, this hesitance was unacceptable as my body temperature (secured as it is by vast amounts of lipids,) was dropping. The answer: ride faster. By the end of the ride I would look over my shoulder and I would see him turning circles chasing me down or sprinting up rises. It was quite a transformation. My only regret is not getting out again with him before he heads back west.
As we were riding I realized that he was learning how to conduct himself on the road by following me. How do I treat stop signs, cars (parked? Moving?) stop lights, pedestrians, road hazards? How do I position myself in the lane? Those things are better “caught” than “taught.” I hope he had his mitt out each time I told him to make eye contact with motorists…
I plan to post a follow-up with pictures of the bike build. We didn't get any photos of our adventure yesterday, but we'll have the sting of the hail and the urgency of traffic to remember it.
Monday, April 6, 2009
[Caution: this pedal-stroke by pedal-stroke replay is way too long with respect to its actual importance for reality. If reading my bloviating will piss you off, but you want to know how it went, here you go: I raced in Hillsboro. It was hard. I finished safely, and in 38th place out of 100 cat. 4s. The girls said they had a good time but they lied. – please stop reading.]
Hillsboro-Roubaix was a great race this year as last. We (Wild Card Cycling) didn’t have the impressive success (1,2,6,7 in the 5’s) but we had a respectable showing (9,15,19,38 in the 4’s – I was the caboose.) Rob and Scott have given race reports, but here’s my perspective for what it’s worth.
It was sunny and the winds felt light. However, once we got up to speed the winds didn’t feel so light anymore. The field seemed very twitchy on the country roads and there were a LOT of tire rubbing sounds. Surprisingly I did not rub tires once! The twitchiness of the pack produced a constant surge-stop rhythm that sapped your strength. As the pack would slow, you touch your brakes to stay out of the guy’s cassette in front of you – but now they’re putting the gas on again so you have to accelerate. If you don’t speed up, you open up a gap and you get more wind in your face, etc. Rinse and repeat. Regardless, I felt good for the first lap and stayed with the leaders in the top half of the field.
The cobbled section that blew me up last year did a number on me this year and I drifted back through the pack through the finishing circuit. I definitely had to burn a match to stay with the group at this point and I was in the red after the 2 hills into town. I thought I climbed them well and maintained my position (not something I usually do on climbs) but it took its toll. At one point during the cobbles Tom gave me a little push (which was a BIG dose of encouragement) and said (something like) “Hang on Frenchy.” My body (especially my lower back) was telling me to quit, so that little bit of help went a long way. In bike racing as in life: encouragement is nice in good times but is really powerful during tough times!
Well, I held on to the group and stayed with the lead pack during the next climb after we left town. I was recovering a little, and even gave Tom a little return push in a crosswind section. However, with each little rise my back was getting tighter and more painful. I noticed my cadence was dropping and I was “mashing” the pedals more frequently, even standing at times. The hill around 5 miles into the lap popped me out of the group (a la West Lafayette RR last year). I thought I might be able to latch onto the back of the pack but the tailwind section was the cue for the horses to let loose. Not long after that turn the wheel truck came around and I knew we were done. I say we because there was a rider with me (Cervelo bike w/ HED or Mavic carbon wheels, black jersey?). I told him to “hop on” and tried to catch up to the wheel truck draft (which is illegal, mind you.) We rotated through once or twice but the next time I flicked my elbow for him to come around, he didn’t do so. I flicked again and slowed 1-2 mph. He didn’t come around. Being the hot-head that I am I attacked him(!) and tried to bridge to a dropped rider up the road (who had just been passed by the wheel truck). All I accomplished was blowing myself up again, so I stretched my back out and was rejoined by the Cervelo rider. I made a truce with him.
The rest of the race was a series of picking up dropped riders as we rode in a paceline. I noticed that the guys I was joining did not properly place themselves with respect to the wind for a paceline. They were still riding in “race mode” whereby you position yourself in such a way as to minimize the draft of the trailing riders. This is not “nice” and does not give the guys you are working with very much recovery after their turns on the front. I finally spoke up and instructed the group to “move left” or “move right” and some of the guys complied. We then had a decent echelon with which to draft; the group actually speeds up when you do this. The down side is that the group recovers better and you don’t burn people out as much, so they may be fresher at the finish and beat you. But that’s the risk you take.
The composition of the group varied over the rest of the lap as we picked guys up and dropped guys from the group. Cervelo was dropped on a climb, some cat 3’s and a cat 2(!) joined our group. Now, it is illegal to work with riders from other races during yours, however when you are 4 minutes in arrears of your race leaders – who cares? I suppose there are some rules (receiving assistance from a motor vehicle) which you just don’t break, but there are others (yellow-line, working with riders of other fields) that are dictated by the situation. Speaking of which, I was in the race with a former race director who clearly felt the same way as he moved up through the field in the left gutter! That’s right; it wasn’t just a possible center-line infraction, but a flagrant one. However, while I was heckling him (teasing really), I would have done the same thing. We could see that the road ahead was clear and the crosswind section had the pack all over the road. On the other hand there are obvious circumstances where this would be foolhardy and reckless – which is why there is this “iron rule” imposed on the racers.
One of the riders we picked up (and dropped) during this time was Brean. Brean is part of the uber-hip Chicago Cuttin Crew bike messenger team. I was surprised to find him towards the back end of things and asked him why he was off the back: “Stuck in the little ring” he said to me. “Stuck with a small motor” was my reply. Turned out his front derailleur had malfunctioned and he was stuck in his small chainring. Most of the race I was in my big chainring (hard to believe, I know), so this would be a significant disadvantage to him. It was good to have a “friend” in the group though as we’ve ridden together in races before. Well, his luck went from bad to worse as he got a flat a few miles further down the road and fell off the pace. He was wise enough to carry an emergency pump/sealant deal, but that was all he could do to limp into town. However, he is the type of bike racer we all should be: he was happy after the finish. Whining like a child about his bad luck? Nope, laughing at the adventure of this silly race. In bike racing as in life: don't take yourself too seriously.
Coming into the final set of hills I was trying to decide if I would “use myself up” on the course or “save some for the sprint.” Now, in cycling circles, unless you WIN the race or WIN a bunch sprint, sprinting at the line against the other stragglers is dangerous, foolish, and a lame move that only shows your self-worship. Really, does it matter if you finish 50th or 51st? No, it doesn’t. Neither does it matter if you finish 38th or 39th. However, you always want to practice winning out of a “breakaway” or “small group”, so in light of this I tried to keep a steady tempo up the hills and stay with my group. I succeeded and no cat 4 from our group beat me up the 2 hills. One guy I was with purposely stayed with me, but after the 2nd hill (we traded off going up the hill); I attacked him before the hard left into the downhill stretch. I dropped him and stayed on the wheel of a cat 3 rider up the road. In the final turn on the course I saw a cat 4 rider up ahead and accelerated to get on his wheel. Once there I stayed to his left since he was checking on his right. With 200 meters to go I accelerated and held a high pace to the line. Mission accomplished, I won my group (of 4’s), worked hard, and didn’t save a bunch of energy for a foolish “blaze of glory sprint” – I just finished hard.
I definitely learned a lot from this race; here ya go in bullet format:
· This is the second weekend in a row of hard riding that was limited by lower back muscular pain. Obviously I need to strengthen my lower back and abdomen. This is probably performance limiter number 1! (Yes I did sit-ups this morning between indoor soccer games.)
· Practice riding in the drops (subpoint from the above). I like to ride on the hoods, but that’s a higher drag position than the drops. Less drag = less wasted energy.
· My average heart rate was 166 for the 2 hrs of racing. I need more endurance rides. My next race is in June (wha?!) so I’m going to focus on base miles during my weeks for the next month to build up my aerobic engine. Let’s hope another transatlantic business trip doesn’t destroy my fitness.
· While I positioned myself well during the first lap, I need to move up further during a race like this as I was getting a lot of yo-yo and frequently had to brake. Braking is throwing away energy, and that’s not something I can afford!
· On one twisty decent I grabbed a handful of rear brake and almost lost my rear-end! Definitely brake lightly in turns at speed and don’t just grab one or the other – otherwise you’re asking for it!
· All things considered I felt I handled turns well and got some of my racing “nerve” back after my crash at Oak Brook last year. I definitely was not afraid of following wheels in the pack, and even bumped bars a few times without any panicking or adverse effects (from them or me). Just a little – hey there, how you doin?
· Wear sunscreen – I went from pasty white to “solo cup red” in 2 hrs!
· Don’t bring the girls to road races. They were burnt and tired and had to endure 4-5hrs in the car for 90 seconds of “didjaseeme?!” Bring the family to crits and cross races.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Also going on, this weekend is "The Hell of Downstate", Hillsboro-Roubaix. Am I excited/nervous/sleepless/hopeful/fearful? Yes. Ready? Probably not. This will be my first race as a cat 4, so we'll see. The training camp should have done me well. The girls and David will be there to witness. Pics to follow. Rubber side down.
David will have a cross bike built up by next week. Pics in due time.
Wednesday night is fight night: the "Wednesday Night Ride" a.k.a. "Wednesday World Championships", etc. I'm giddy for it all week. I have to take it easy tonight though and save the big matches for Saturday.