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Archive for March, 2012

(Okay, I am a little late with this post… four days late. Work has been taking most of my focus and energy this week and will continue to do so through the end of next week.)

Last week, before I knew the weekend’s weather forecast (I never look and hardly ever plan…) I made the claim on facebook that I wanted to raise the remaining $85 for my Tour de Cure ride in June and for $85 dollars I would ride 85 miles over the weekend. Obviously making the statement of facebook equates to signing away your soul with a golden quill dipped in blood because even though the furthest I have ever ridden was 50 miles, 70 in one weekend, I was going to ride the 85 miles come hell or high water.

And then came the water. Thunder showers to be exact.

The original plan was 85 miles in one weekend. You know, two whole days. Saturday I was going to commute to work on bike but the rain showers and the fact that I was working a special event (ie: I couldn’t show up soaked) meant all 85 miles would be crammed into Sunday. Not only was this 25 more miles that I had ever ridden in a weekend it was 35 miles more than I had ever ridden in a single day.

However, I had some advantages – or at least one significant advantage. I planned to ride all 85 miles on the W&OD trail. Yup, my go-to place when I need distance (well, not anymore but I’ll talk about that later). The plan was the ride the entire W&OD trail. I would start in Sterling, head east to the end of the trail, turn around and head back to Sterling (my car acting as the refueling station because I wasn’t sure if the water stops had been turned on yet and I didn’t want to carry more than I needed to) and continue out to Purcellville. Once in Purcellville I’d only need to head back to Sterling. Done. Easy. (ha!)

Sunday morning it was raining. I don’t fully trust myself clipped in to a bike (I still have blond moments after a year of riding clipped in) and because of the rain I decided to cut out the east section of the trail, which is full of road crossings, and run the westward route from Sterling twice (79.8 miles which meant I had to make up the  additional 5.1 miles elsewhere). I know that section of trail, every turn, land mark, etc… It is quite nice too.

My boyfriend made poached eggs and toast as my pre-ride meal (He is a sweetheart. He won’t ride a bike with me but I think he’d be my SAG wagon if I ever asked him to) and I gathered my water, various stuff I would need on the ride, and checked my bike. I was out the door around 9:15am. On the bike by 9:40am.

The first 40-50 miles of my ride felt like a breeze. I kept an easy pace for the most part with occasional spurts of speed for fun. I struck up conversation with a woman. She and I had been passing back and forth for a few miles. On the flats she’d speed by and I’d pass her on the hills (well, the max 3% grade). Finally I just said hello and asked where she was going. We both were heading to Purcellville and she was attempting her first 50 mile ride. She was riding as training for the Eagleman half-Ironman which is the weekend after my Tour de Cure ride (I know because I signed up as a volunteer!). Anyway, I talked with her to Purcellville (she was thinking about turning back early but I coaxed her on… I wanted her to hit her goal) and then we parted ways. She went to purchase some electrolytes from the bike shop at the end of the trail, fittingly called Trails End. I was back to the car, 39.4 miles, by 12:30 for refueling/refilling water bottles.

I remember the next 10 miles not being too bad. My saddle was starting to bother my pelvic bones but overall I felt pretty decent. However, from approximately mile 50 all the way until 85 I was not in great shape. The saddle bothered me more and more. I was standing up frequently. In general, it was very painful. But I suffered through and now can say I’ve ridden 85 miles in one day! If this was the Tour de Cure I’d have another 85 miles to go the following day… I can tell you right now I don’t feel even remotely prepared.

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Rode another easy (read: not hilly) 20 miles today. My weekend total is right above 70 miles which makes me super happy. I have about two months of training time left before the 150 mile Tour de Cure. Technically it is six weeks but I am not counting the last two because those will be low mileage weeks. I still feel like I had more miles left in my legs today. That is encouraging. My sit bones on the other hand… those were hurting a lot today.

Looking forward to tackling some hills this week.

 

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I earned my St. Patty’s Day beer by riding 50.2 miles yesterday. This time I was a bit more prepared than last week . I made sure to carry some Shot Bloks as an attempt to prevent the muscle cramping that occurred last week. Since it was in the upper 70’s I also loaded up with four water bottles because the water stops are still winterized and shut off. I prefer to be over-prepared than thirsty.

The ride was beautiful. Blue skies and a trail full of cyclists, runners and families. It was nice seeing so many people even if it meant I had to be more cautious. Even in places where I was the only person I could hear rustling of animals and birds singing. I scared a few snakes outside of Purcellville.

Not much of a view but the local quarry counts as a vista.

Even with a few more stops (had some mechanical adjustments to make) than usual I was back to the house ten minutes under 4 hours. My computer clock claimed I made the 50.2 mile ride in 3:37:42. I’m not sure that is correct but I’ll take it!

One thing I am very happy about are my new handlebars (put on last Friday so yesterday was their inaugural ride!). Two years after I purchased this bike I took it into a local bike shop for a professional fitting (not just seat adjustment, they look at angles, etc…it made an amazing difference!) and we discovered that the bike had been sold to me with stock handlebars meant for the same bike but two sizes larger. I had been having pain where my thoracic spine met my neck and no matter how aware I was of my position I still had aches after 15 miles. The guy doing the fitting suggested I look at getting handlebars that were more appropriate since these were a bit too wide for me.

Fast-forward until two months ago… I decided to contact Specialized. I told them how much I loved my bike but also the discovery of the handlebars being the incorrect size. I asked if there was a way to swap them or if they had a suggestion on what to use as a replacement (I purchased this bike in 2008 and it is now 2012! I didn’t expect them to correct this after so many years). Someone from Specialized was very quick to respond that they had received my email and would ask higher up managers what could be done. A couple of days later they offered to swap out my handlebars at no charge so long as I went through one of their dealers. No problem! I thought that was wonderful customer service and they have earned my loyalty.

I also have to say I absolutely love cycling and it is all because of a friend, some great local bike shop employees who have helped me figure things out, and companies that stand behind their products. I used to be a very serious horseback rider so I understand how expensive sports can get. Thankfully cycling isn’t as expensive as horses but it also isn’t cheap. Without the good people I’ve met along the way it would have been easy to move on to another hobby. I’m glad I’ve stuck with it.

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I think it is fair that the 2012 Specialized Tricross Elite gets a follow-up review. Especially because I’ve seen quite a bit of traffic coming to my blog through the original review. In the long run, a little over a month and 150 ridden miles isn’t a whole lot but I think I know this bike by now. The good news is I still like it a lot and have never regretted purchasing it!

I’ve ridden on terrain ranging from mud to gravel to smooth paved trails. Throw some roads with potholes in the mix as well. So far the bike has handled everything. The lack of response is nicer for the work-horse jobs I’ve assigned to the bike. It is no carbon fiber speed machine but it was also never meant to be that. To compare the Tricross to my Ruby would be the same as comparing a bloodhound to a greyhound. They might both be hounds (or bikes in this instance) but they were created for very different  purposes. The greyhound would never last trying to do the job of a bloodhound (or covering the same rugged terrain) and the bloodhound could never be as fast as the greyhound.

The Tricross is sturdy and does a good job (for aluminum) reducing road vibration. It isn’t fast and has some weight to it. However, there are more than enough gears to choose from if you need to tackle some serious hills. I like the extra weight when I am commuting or out on rough trails. I don’t feel as though the wind from a truck speeding past is going to knock me over and I don’t worry about hurting the bike if there are nasty trail/road conditions.

The disc brakes definitely make you STOP. So much that when I got back on my Ruby I thought maybe I needed to replace the brakes! The down side to the disc breaks is that they can be a bit noisy/squeaky. I think there are adjustments that can be done to help the noise but I haven’t found it bothersome enough to make that a priority.

The SRAM shifters are still pretty good. This part is one that I am less in love with than when I first purchased the bike. I still say they are very intuitive but the finesse, compared to Shimano 105’s on the Ruby, just isn’t there. I feel a bit heavy-handed and the change is rougher than the 105. Still, it isn’t so much of a difference to make me not like the bike. But it is different enough to make me appreciate the butter-soft shifting on the Ruby.

This isn’t a girlie bike and it is marketed toward men but I didn’t buy it to have a pretty bike (and one day I’ll have my pretty bike too!). The pretty bikes I saw when I was researching my commuter bike didn’t have the eyelets needed for attachments and often times came with less than stellar components.  I like that Specialized kept logos and fancy markings to a minimum. There is no special design about the frame. It doesn’t look fast or sleek. It doesn’t look bad either. Again, this is a bike meant for getting a job done and it does its job well.

Oh, one last thing. Yes, this bike is heavier and takes more effort than the Ruby but the plus side to working hard is that I am averaging faster speeds and longer distances (with less effort) when I transition to the Ruby for non-commuting rides.  That is always a good thing!

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Whether you are a long-time cycling commuter or looking for an opportunity to try it for the first time, I recommend signing up for Bike To Work Day! The Washington DC & Metro Area Bike to Work Day has approximately 50 pit stops all over the region (Loundoun County, you’re included too!). If you register and select a pit stop then you will also be able to pick up a free t-shirt from your designated pit stop on May 18th.

For inexperienced commuters (actually, this is good information for ANY cyclist on the road) check out How Not To Get Hit By Cars. Yes, that is a scary title but every cyclist needs to be aware. However, don’t let it turn you off to commuting if all you have are roads to ride on. Just play it smart and if you don’t want to read the whole page I linked to at least follow these directions:

– Wear a helmet and bright colored clothing (or even better, the high viz clothing with reflector stuff.
– Get a front and rear light. You can go so far as to add one to the back of your helmet too. Use them during the day as well.
– Never wear headphones while cycling on the road (I’d prefer to say never ever wear them while cycling but I doubt people will listen to that).
– Remember, it doesn’t matter if you are right a vehicle will always win so treat intersections/turns carefully. Stay aware of your surroundings and ride in a predictable manner.
– Ride on the road OR ride on the sidewalk/cross walks. Don’t do both. If you ride on the road know the traffic laws and abide by them. If you ride on the sidewalk then be sure to pay attention at cross walks. Cars underestimate the speed of cyclists and can/will turn into you (For the record, I prefer riding on the road as I think visibility is much better and I am overall safer).

There is a ton more but other websites have done all the work so either check out the link I posted above or google it yourself.

Enjoy the ride!

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I’ve been pondering the cramps I had in my thighs on Sunday’s ride. They were different than any usual ache. Blaming it on the bread was a little silly. It probably came down to a couple things:

Increased mileage by 18 miles
Temperature
Electrolytes

I hopped from 30 miles to 48. I’ve ridden 50 before but that was last summer and I wasn’t exactly consistent in my riding since last September. Base miles commuting to work on hills are what allowed me to make the 48.5 mile ride on Sunday. The W&OD trail is quite easy I need to remember that as the next few months require me to add more mileage. The route for the 150 mile Tour de Cure in Cary, NC has rolling hills that the W&OD doesn’t offer. I need to start planning my weekend rides elsewhere…

Temperature and electrolytes go together. The ride was 20 degrees warmer than what I have been riding in and this most likely means my body was sweating out minerals and electrolytes faster than normal. The Hammer Sustained Energy doesn’t include minerals/electrolytes so I wasn’t replacing them either.

For longer rides I need to be a bit more prepared and figure out a solution for minerals and electrolytes as the weather begins to warm up and my distances/rides increase. Last summer I mixed gatorade with my regular water but I don’t like that solution.

All the excess sugars bother me. I mean mentally… I don’t have any physical problems with it. The lack of sugars – which are terrible for your teeth – in Hammer products have made me return customer. Obviously just one product doesn’t solve all problems and I’m not sure it is fair to expect that either.

If anyone out there wants to share a favorite solution for longer rides or runs then please do! Less than 3 months to the Tour de Cure ride… it is good to figure all this stuff out now!

Completely unrelated… I’ve been getting a lot of traffic to my 2012 Tricross Elite blog entry. A follow-up review is in order now that 100+ miles have been put on it. That will be coming soon. There are definitely some noteworthy aspects of the bike, positives and negatives, to be added.

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If you’re in my neck of the woods and didn’t take a moment to get outdoors yesterday then you missed a truly splendid day! This past weekend I traveled with Garret to Pennsylvania to see where he grew up and attended a surprise retirement party for his uncle who recently left the police force. Sunday morning we woke up early (even despite the change in the clocks), met with some of Garret’s family and finally hit the road around 11:30am. I was a bit nervous because I wanted to fit a 40 mile bike ride into the weekend as training for the 150 mile Tour de Cure in June. I was home and heading out the front door with my bike at 3:30pm. Not bad.

The ride couldn’t have been more excellent. There were times with a few gusts of wind but overall it didn’t cause problems like the previous weekend. I started out on regular roads for 3.6 miles and then picked up the W&OD Trail, heading west. The goal was Purcellville. I kept my speed lower than I wanted because this was the longest ride since last August. This winter most of my rides have been less than 30 miles. Tacking on 18 more is a bit of a jump for me at this point.

I carried two water bottles. One regular water and one filled with Hammer Sustained Energy because I planned to take up to 4 hours for the ride. I also carried a small bread roll in case I was hungry – thinking back I am wondering if this caused a problem.

On the way out to P-ville the W&OD Trail was filled with cyclists, runners, families, dog walkers and other people enjoying the beautiful weather. As much as I get nervous around families with little children who wobble all over the trail it was nice to be surrounded by people once again. This is the first time since late last fall that I’ve seen more than a handful of people out and about. For the first time I also saw a patrol officer on the W&OD. I am not sure if he works for Regional Parks or if he is a member of a local Force. Either way, it was good to see the trails in use and being observed.

I made it to P-ville just before 5:30. Two hours out meant I’d be home by 7:30 if I kept the same pace. I had been riding a very easy 11-12mph pace with the occasional burst of speed up to 21mph – I still love going fast. But I didn’t push the speed and only did it on portions of the trail that felt easy. Once again, the additional 18 miles I’d be traveling meant I needed to pace myself unless I wanted to feel like my legs were as heavy as steel at the end (I prefer to be tired but still feel like I can keep going at the end of my rides).

The last few miles coming in to P-ville were very quiet. The temperature was beginning to drop and people must have been heading inside. It took a quick break, ate the bread roll and started my journey home. I remember thinking at mile 35.7 that I felt great as I stood up to tackle a quick hill. By mile 37, it was a completely different story. My thighs were beginning to cramp – not something I recall ever happening, at least it felt different than other pains. My left thigh was definitely worse.

This is what I speculate: I had eaten well enough the day before and even earlier in the day of my ride to fuel my muscles. However, after 90 minutes of exercise the human body begins to need simple carbs and sugars in order to continue. This is where the Sustained Energy came in. I had started drinking it approximately 45 minutes into my ride. When I reached Purcellville (24.6 miles in to my ride) I ate the bread roll and I’m wondering if this hindered absorption of the energy drink. For the next 10+ miles I was fine but after that is when the cramping began.

Regardless of the cause, I kept myself going until my trail exit. There I took a few minutes to rub out the charlie horse cramp that had started. The tear-drop shaped quad muscle in my left leg felt like a good knot. But, it came out and felt good enough to make the last 3.6 miles (of hills) home. I also turned on the rear and front lights since I’d be joining traffic. I kicked up my speed between red lights to 19mph and higher when going downhill.

Finally I was home with 5 minutes of daylight to spare. Even though my legs were cramping I felt as though I had some energy to spare. I guess I could have pushed for an additional 1.5 miles to make it an even 50 mile ride but I felt it was better not to test my luck.

Today my thighs are still sore, particularly the one section of my left quad but overall there have been times after running that have left me more sore. I think I may head out for an easy 10 miles this evening to shake the lactic acid from my legs. The 150 mile Tour de Cure feels less daunting today.

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