Friday, June 19, 2009

Two Covered Bridges, Multiple Scabs

It's been so long since I've written, I bet you thought I'd given up, eh? O ye of little faith!

The weather has been, again, fairly abysmal. It seems like every time we have an abundance of time, the rain comes with it. Despite this, we have managed to get in some riding. Ok, Alyssa rides just about every day. I'm not quite that good about getting on the bike, but I'm working on it.

Last Saturday morning, we did an almost 13 mile ride up around Thurmont, MD with our friends Whitney & Araminta. Well, Whitney was able to ride. Araminta's bike was not working correctly, so she operated the sag wagon. This mostly involved keeping traffic flowing around us and blasting music to help with motivation. She did a stellar job!

Whitney was responsible for mapping out the route for us and it was a really nice ride. We got to see two of three covered bridges located in Frederick County, the Roddy Creek and the Loy's Station. Even if we hadn't gotten to see the bridges, the ride itself was beautiful.

I surprised myself by really going after one of the hills we encountered. I guess I figured I'd rather get the hill over with than prolong the agony. And I didn't want to lose my steam and fall over. Why would I fall over, you ask?

Because I was wearing these shoes for the first time with my new bike and its clipless pedals. I was a bit apprehensive about wearing cycling shoes because I was convinced I would constantly forget to clip out of the pedals and fall over all the time, but I figured I needed to suck it up and go for it. To my surprise and delight, I found myself enjoying clipping in during our ride. At least until I fell. That falling thing? Not a lot of fun. Alyssa assured me that falling a couple of times is just a rite of passage, so I didn't feel like too much of a loser. I think I did so gloriously and spectacularly, with lots of profanity.

We didn't take a picture of me lying on the ground after the first fall, but I did make sure to take a picture of my banged up hand. You just don't realize how much you bend your hand until it's excruciating to do so. I know it doesn't look like much, but it didn't tickle, that's for sure. The falling itself was a fairly zen moment. Time slowed down and I knew I wasn't going to be able to unclip in time. Once I started tipping, I just resigned myself to it. I knew it was going to hurt, but thought maybe flopping would lessen the impact. I can't say that it did, but the pain of landing on the ground was worse than I imagined it would feel as I contemplated it on my way down.

Then, because I like to enhance my misery, I fell again. This time I really don't know what happened. My left knee was the first part to hit the ground. I made Alyssa take a picture of me lamenting this awful occurrence, but only after she moved my bike from the road. After all, I can get hit by a car, but not my bike.

A week later, I'm mostly healed. I've been picking the scabs on my hands because that's just how I do and the knee is still kinda weird looking, but I'm no worse for the wear. I'm hoping falling will be a rare occurrence, or at least that I don't break anything until after the Challenge.

After we completed our ride, Whitney & Araminta drove us down to the Country Kitchen to eat a delicious breakfast. Alyssa had toast, bacon & eggs and half of my pancakes because she has a tapeworm. Araminta invited us to try some of her Scrapple, as we had never tried it before. I will try just about anything once, so I took a bite. Verdict? Not really my thing. I'll stick to sausage or bacon. Mmm, bacon.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Surly time!

My new bike came in! Did I even mention I was getting a new bike? Probably not. It wasn't totally necessary that I get a new one, as I was doing ok on my Trek 7200, but I was complaining about the riding position to Alyssa and she suggested that I might want to look into a bike more suitable for road riding. I wasn't really sure what I wanted, but after some thoughtful consideration, I decided to go with the bike Alyssa loves and has been riding for almost a year now.


My new Surly Cross Check! Honestly, given my natural state of being, there isn't a more appropriate bike company from which I could buy a bike. Surly is my middle name.

As you can see, it is black. Tom at The Bicycle Escape - our bike shop of choice - made it look awesome for me with the blue accent color gear I chose. I picked out handlebar tape, the water bottle cages, and a righteous Honka Hoota horn. I actually think Alyssa covets my horn.

Tom is a beast and had it ready for me to pick up in a week, so we headed to The Bicycle Escape on Saturday afternoon. I thought I might ride from the store to the house, but those plans were thwarted by the beating my body took from doing the Race for the Cure 5k in the morning and then mowing a friend's yard after that. My feet and hands were covered in blisters, so we just loaded the bike into the truck and brought it home. We planned on getting a good night's rest and then getting up to do a morning ride. We got the good night's rest part taken care of fairly easily and we were up plenty early, but our plan to ride 10 miles to church was thwarted when we came downstairs to discover Alyssa's rear tire had gone flat overnight. Because she is a superstar, Alyssa put her bike down on the kitchen floor and changed her flat in a pretty short amount of time, but it was still too late for us to make it to church on time. We reconfigured our game plan and took off for a shorter ride around town. Actually, it was a way shorter ride - only 3 miles - and it was broken up by stopping for a bagel, but it gave me a chance to just get on the bike and try things out.

Riding the Surly is definitely going to be an adjustment. It's a whole new riding position and getting started is a bit more wobbly than on the Trek, but for my first ride, I was pleased. I wasn't brave enough to try the clipless pedals today, figuring that riding a new bike would be enough of an adjustment for one day, but on our next big ride I'm going to suck it up and give them a go. The worst that can happen is that I fall on my face.

Hm, I kind of don't want to fall on my face.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Have bike, will travel

We made a trip to New York this weekend to celebrate Alyssa's Granny's 90th birthday.

Knowing we needed to get in at least a little bit of a ride, we took the bikes along with us. Despite having used the car rack multiple times, we still agonized over making sure the rack was on safely and securely. The reality is it was probably on fine from the outset, but we always have visions of the bikes falling off the back of the car and skidding down the interstate behind us so we spend many minutes pulling tighter on the straps and pushing down on the rack to make sure it's not going anywhere. Safety first!

We got a very late start leaving Frederick on Friday night and didn't arrive at Alyssa's mom and dad's house until after 1:30AM, but I made us get up early on Saturday to go for our ride. Ok, fine: maybe I was just excited to finally wear my sweet new cycling shorts. Jealous?

I never in my life thought I would willingly wear spandex, but there you have it.

So, we rode through the streets of Alyssa's home town - Bronxville, represent! - in order to get to the Bronx River Pathway. It was a nice ride to get to the trail, too. It was downhill and traffic was light because it was early in the morning. I'd say we were on the trail by 9AM. Oh, and let me clarify. By trail I mean a lovely, wide, paved, mixed-use path that ambled along the Bronx River under a canopy of trees. This was definitely more a pleasure cruise than any heavy duty training ride, but we did get to work on shifting and handled several short hills, so it wasn't a waste of time by any stretch.

We took time to stop and appreciate cuteness.

We also took time to stop and pose with construction equipment.

I can't even explain the complete idiocy that overcomes us, but we have a good time.

I continue to be amazed by the number of people who don't wear helmets. Like putting on my seat belt when I get into the car, putting on a helmet is automatic. I just want to try to avoid having my brains scraped from the pavement and figure wearing a helmet is a good way to keep that from happening. I was also surprised by those who walked along the path completely oblivious to the fact that it's a shared use path and, well, they needed to share. Here's a tip to those not in the know: walking in the middle of the path with your headphones up so high that you can't hear people behind you is a bad idea.

Remember how I said the trip into Bronxville from Alyssa's mom and dad's house was downhill? That means it was uphill on the way home. Funny how that works. I knew it was going to be unpleasant based upon my experience from the many times I've been forced to walk back to their house from the Metro North station after we've spent an exhausting day in the city. I thought it might be a little more pleasant on a bike, but I was wrong. I had to get off my bike and walk it up the steepest of the hills, huffing and puffing and dropping copious amounts of profanity the whole way. Once we got up that hill, I asked if that was the worst of it, to which Alyssa responded, "Yeah. No. Well...I think so." It turns out there was another hill we had to tackle, but it ended up not being nearly as painful as the first and I managed to stay on my bike. I still huffed and puffed and dropped copious amounts of profanity. I know this is "good medicine" seeing as the Challenge will have us making an overall elevation climb of over 4000 feet, but I am a baby. Alyssa has told me we're going to have to do hill sprints, but I've been pushing that thought out of my head. Why can't every ride be downhill or, at the very least, flat? You Floridians don't know how good you have it.

I rode my bike to work again last Friday and then again yesterday. It was pretty uneventful, except I was able to see what appears to be a groundhog family right outside of Fort Detrick. That cuteness is one reason to keep me motivated to ride to work.