What a Week!

Read whatever intonation you want into that title, I’d say it’s accurate.

Sunday

Benji listless and droopy. Took his temp: 102F. Administered Tylenol and videos. Ian left to drive to totality zone. Benji slept and drooped and I gave him more Tylenol. Had 100% exposure to his virus in the first 15 seconds of his feeling really bad.

Monday

Had the day off, which was good, because it was busy and Ian wasn’t around! Benji was feeling better, but his throat was really sore.

But Uncle Gerard was here for a visit, so Benji glommed onto him and I didn’t have to do much.

Hopelink donation and food bank tour. Benji still a little sick after 102-degree fever on Sunday (and maybe Saturday.)
Hopelink Food Bank Tour

Eclipse.
Eclipse 1

Eclipse 2

Eclipse 3

Eclipse Tree Pinholes

Play with Gruncle Gerard.
Benji and Gruncle Gerard

Tuesday

Ian test-drove a Bolt and loved it. We decided to buy one. Started the process of buying one and getting all the details sorted for that. With a regular car you don’t have to worry about installing a fueling station at your house, but with an electric car, you do! Sadly, PSE ended their charging station rebate program last year, so no free charging station for us.

We plan to go on Friday after work to do all the car-buying paperwork.

Wednesday

I start feeling under the weather. Take a bus home and by 9:00 pm have 102-degree fever and vomited once (dehydration and hunger, I suspect; careful consumption of liquids and calories resulted in no further such episodes. Still… ugh). Clearly not going to work Thursday.

Thursday

Sick all day in bed. Fever remains through afternoon, though feeling a little better by evening. Fever goes away by evening and doesn’t come back, but tonsil area of throat getting extremely sore. Can’t swallow much. Benji complained on Monday of it hurting to eat, and he was RIGHT! Oww! Blaze through our strategic apple sauce supplies in no time flat.

Still not going to work, but a very kind coworker dropped off my laptop so I could do work on Friday.

Friday

Home Sick
Feeling much better although still can’t swallow at all. Subsisting on sherbet, smoothies, and apple sauce.

New Bolt!
Good thing about being home was I could meet at 1:00 pm to do car paperwork! This was extra-good because it took like two hours with everything, so I was glad we didn’t start at 4:00 pm. Pretty darn excited.

Struggled to swallow enough pasta to prepare for a bike ride of some sort the following day. Only a few weeks out from P2P, this was to be a major peak week of riding. Determined not to let stupid sickness stop me.

Saturday

Decided to join Dad for his super-hilly ride and just see how long I can hang on. What I didn’t realize until 45 minutes before the ride started was that the ride began not in Woodinville (a 5-minute ride away) but in South Kirkland (a 25- to 30-minute ride away). Needless to say I rushed off in quite a panic and fortunately remembered everything, but arrived at the start a little less fresh than I might’ve hoped.

I liberally dosed myself with Advil during the day and that helped keep the sore throat tolerable. Swallowing Clif bars was not exactly a joy, but I didn’t cry in pain, either. I saved that for the hills, which started and pretty much never stopped.

It was as good an approximation of P2P as I’ve done this season, although previous years we did more. It’s not been my best year, and I expect to be even slower on P2P than previous years… but with all the illnesses, especially the summer ones, and my job and our family dynamic evolving, I’ll just consider finishing a success this year.

In any case, on Saturday I just felt grateful to have enough energy to keep riding and not get dropped, and finish the ride (as much as anyone finished). In fact, overall, I felt decent — not super fast or strong, but certainly able to keep going. Now I just have to manage not to get sick between today and September 9…

Also, Benji and I got CSA veggies and found rainbow glass chips in the parking lot.
CSA Rainbow

Then, after I put Benji down for bed, Dad and I took the Bolt out for a spin. The dashboard lights up at night.
Bolt Night Lighting

Sunday

Church at Newport High School with a zillion other people. Hot. Benji ran around while we quasi-listened/quasi-made sure he didn’t vanish. Astroturf bits got all over our shoes, pants, and blankets. Tried really hard not to get them all over the inside of our car.
Church in the "Park"

Got home and collapsed for a while.

…Need I say explicitly that our family of routine-lovers is looking forward to a nice, normal week this week?

Chelan Century 2017

A couple weeks ago, Dad and I rode the Chelan Century. Several of our friends have spoken glowingly about it, with special emphasis on the grueling 5-mile climb called McNeil Canyon, so this year I decided to give the ride a shot and I dragged Dad along, because if I’m going to suffer, he might as well too. We do our suffering together, darn it!

Anyway, the reason it took us so long to get around to doing this ride is because we both had to take time off work to drive over there the night before. It’s in Chelan, which, with good traffic takes about 3 hours to drive from my house. With real traffic, however, we’re looking at 3.5 to 4 hours, or on Sunday afternoon, up to 7 or 8 hours. So basically you have to stay at least one night, the night before the ride; and you might want to stay the night after the ride, if you’re totally pooped.

We learned quickly that reserving rooms in January for a late-June ride wasn’t on the ball enough. We ended up paying over $300 a night, with a two-night minimum, since it’s also the peak of the season, even though we weren’t sure we wanted to stay two nights. And the room we got was one bed with a fold-out hide-a-bed (I can attest to the inadequacy of the mattress in that department–or at least all my bruises can!), right on the water–theoretically wonderful, but not actually ideal for sleeping while everyone else was up playing in the late sunshine.

In any case, we drove over to Chelan and arrived late afternoon, and it was beautiful.

Chelan - Afternoon View

We got our numbers and free swag (coffee, which I brought to work and left in the kitchen, and which vanished almost instantly) at the Chamber of Commerce.
Chelan - No Cleats

I bought a couple things (a ton of ear plugs, since I forgot mine and they don’t come in small numbers, and a book for Benji) and then we went to dinner with our biking buddy John and his family at this restaurant that had really beautiful views.
Chelan - Restaurant View 1

Chelan - Restaurant View 2

The beautiful views theme continued in the evening and the next morning before we left.
Chelan - Evening View

Chelan - Morning View

Early in the ride Dad got a flat tire, but he got it changed quickly and we got more nice views while we waited.
Chelan - Ride View 1

So we rode along and I was really careful about pacing myself, because I knew this big climb was coming about halfway through the ride. It also was getting warmer and warmer, so Dad and I both made sure to drink a ton. We rode with our biking buddy John Jester, who has gotten super strong this year but still patiently waits for us at the top and bottom of hills.

It was a relief to finally get to McNeil and ride that big hill, because at least then it was done!
Chelan - Top of McNeil Canyon
I had kind of hoped to get the fastest time on that climb, either of women on that ride or of all time; but neither happened. I was satisfied with my effort — about 51 minutes — and that’s good enough. Some time I may want to go out and ride around there on my own, and try to hit that hill harder and faster, but for a mid-century ride where I had to save my legs for another 50 miles and 4,000 feet of climbing, it was decent.

The ride was split into three loops, each 35 to 40 miles long, each starting and ending at a park in downtown Chelan. This works OK, and I was fine with coming back to the cooler area around the lake each time.
Chelan - End of Loop 2
That’s John’s red bike. He likes red vehicles.

So then it was another 30-odd miles, and the temperature kept going up, until I saw 102 F on my bike computer (John’s said 99.8, but I’m going with mine). It felt like getting cooked. I was really very ready to be done; John rode away from us at the end but Dad and I stayed together and slogged through the last 10 or 15 miles, drinking a ton of water and stopping at every water stop along the way. It was HOT, and the pleasant mid-70s temperatures on our previous rides hadn’t prepared us for being SO DARN HOT.

We finished: 102 miles and about 9500′ of climbing. There were two bonus climbs that we skipped, thank goodness; I don’t know that my legs had another 1000′ of climbing in them. This is us together at the end: John on the left, me, and Dad. It’s a representative, if not overly flattering, photo of how it felt at the end of the ride.
Chelan - Finished!

Chelan Stuff

Dad and I showered and rested in our room, but ended up deciding to drive back home that night. So we did. It took, as anticipated, about 3.5 hours, after which I really didn’t want to drive anymore.

Would I Do It Again?

There were some great aspects to the ride. I liked riding somewhere new, with roads I haven’t seen a zillion times. I liked the seriously long climbs that take more than 5 or 10 minutes to get up. I liked the views and the lack of traffic and stoplights. I liked the support, which was phenomenal.

But.

The ride was expensive, not only in money (although if you add up the registration fee, all the driving-related expenses, the food [no free food at the end! I had to pay $5 for a sandwich!], the room, etc., it would certainly come out as one of the spendiest of my recent rides) but in time and in family resources. While I was gone, Ian spent all Friday evening and all of Saturday with Benji.  I had to take time off work. I was away from my family for an overnight, just doing a play thing.

The ride also felt brutal in a way that I didn’t enjoy. I like hard rides–very hard ones. RAMROD isn’t for wimps, nor is Passport2Pain, and yet I’ve done the former twice and the latter three times (and I’m signed up for a fourth). But between the extreme amount of climbing–nearly as much as RAMROD–and the extreme temperature, it just felt deeply miserable by the end. I guess what I’m saying is that it felt extreme for no particular reason, whereas something like RAMROD has a fabulous reason: Mt. Rainier. Or P2P: Get passport stamps, see beautiful views.

This, by the way, is why something like the Death Ride doesn’t appeal to me at all. I’m not interested in doing rides where people regularly die; I just want to push myself and have fun.

It’s also difficult to be well trained for a ride with almost 10,000 feet of climbing by the end of June, when serious ride training doesn’t start until March or April. This year it was later than that, with all the terrible weather we had. That’s really my issue, not theirs, of course.

Anyway, overall, I am very glad I did the ride. However, I don’t think I will feel a need to add this to my (very short) list of annual rides.

A Girl in a Man’s World

I just read How the Bicycle Paved the Way for Women’s Rights, which is what got me thinking about being a woman in a man’s world. (Funny thing about the article: It basically devolved into a discussion of newspaper coverage of women’s cycling fashion from the turn of the century. What the heck?) I found it interesting to learn that my hobby played a role in women’s rights:

The bicycle took “old-fashioned, slow-going notions of the gentler sex,” as The Courier (Nebraska) reported in 1895, and replaced them with “some new woman, mounted on her steed of steel.”

I’ve always gotten along with guys; I don’t consider myself a radical feminist or anything. I’m a (fairly) wealthy white woman, and I do not consider myself underprivileged or victim of prejudice. But more and more, I’ve been thinking about what my life looks like and how it’s determined by these cultural norms outside of my control.

I’ve always gotten along with guys, and that’s good, because…

  • At the technical school where Ian and I went to college, there were more boys named Matt than girls in Ian’s class. But in my classes, which focused on biology and writing, there were more women.
  • My occupation, in the software business, once again surrounds me with dudes. But in my department, there’s a pretty equal split of men and women (although it’s two male managers in a team of six, hmm).
  • In my chosen hobby, there are way, way fewer women than men. Statistics on this are difficult to find and tend to conflict, but at the level I prefer to ride (as fast as possible, with as few stops as necessary), men comprise the vast majority.

(Sorry, I’m afraid I may use more bullets even in my everyday writing since I started technical writing full time. They’re just so darn efficient!)

One of the things I’ve learned, spending most of my free time and work time with guys, is to push for my view. I’ve always been loud and willing to express my opinions, to put it nicely. At the same time, I’ve learned that guys respect me and listen to me based on two things: How firmly I’m willing to speak; and whether I can actually put my money where my mouth is.

For example, when I’m biking with a group of guys, we often call out hazards or alerts to each other. If I call out, “Steep hill, gear down!” at the beginning of the ride, the guys will hear me (I am loud) but it’s not until I’ve beaten most of them up the hill that I earn their respect. The next hill, if I suggest to gear down, they’re more likely to listen. There’s not a lot of negotiation or worrying about feelings, and they aren’t likely to be miffed that I beat them up the hill. More likely, they’ll work harder trying to catch me, and I’ll work harder trying to stay ahead.

At the same time, I’ve gotten many comments along the lines of, “You’re pretty fast for a girl,” as well as more overtly sexist ones: “Is this where the fastest housewives are?” and “If I was younger I’d want to marry you because you’re so fast.” DUDES. Would you ever, ever, ever in a million years say that to another guy? Harmless flirting with The One Girl isn’t harmless.

No, this isn’t the vast majority of guys I ride with. Most of them are great guys who want to know how fast my legs are, not what they look like. They treat me exactly the way they’d treat another guy, I think; that’s fair, and all I ask.

All I ask is the opportunity to earn respect, whatever environment I’m in — work or play; to show what I’m capable of and be judged on my abilities. Which is really all any of us could hope for, I suppose.

I’ve actually got a lot more to say about this, and about what I’ve learned being a cyclist in a driver’s world (can anyone say “discrimination”?), but unfortunately I’m out of time for now. Hopefully you won’t have to wait two weeks for my next installment.

Saturdays

Well, I’m realizing it’s been several weeks since I said anything here. I’d love to say that’s because we’ve had a bunch of super exciting weeks and I have lots of amazing stories to share.

In fact, on Memorial Day weekend, we went with Dad to the LeMay Car Museum, where we had a delightful time. I didn’t get to try the race car driving simulator, although it looked really cool; but, in the family area, we did enjoy the pinewood derby car racing and the giant United States map with roads and tiny cars, and holes that Benji could pop out of like a gopher.

LeMay Car Museum: Derby 2

LeMay Car Museum: Derby 1

LeMay Car Museum: US Map 1

LeMay Car Museum: US Map 2

LeMay Car Museum: Driving a Car

That Monday, Memorial Day, Dad and I rode the 7 Hills of Kirkland Century, which I believe was our first full century of the year.

This hasn’t been my best season for training and fitness; between being sick, the nasty weather, and starting commuting, I’m a month later starting century rides than usual, and I’m slower than previous seasons. It’s just been tough coming back from everything, and I am still figuring out how much commuting works for me to get in riding but not get overtrained or too tired. Last year I was able to steadily pull at 20 to 21 mph for long periods, and this year, that’s a real effort.

Yesterday we did our second big organized ride of the year, the Flying Wheels Summer Century.

Thanks to large groups including people substantially stronger and fitter than myself, I was able to ride pretty fast on these rides. But it wasn’t so much my fitness as my ability to just wheelsuck guys who can ride 23 mph for 50 or 60 miles at a stretch.

In any case, even if my legs aren’t as fast as I’d like, I’ve gotten to spend some beautiful days outside with good friends, and for that I’m profoundly grateful. As usual, I have to acknowledge the loving sacrifice Ian makes every Saturday when I’m gone for half (or more) of the day on what may be the least time-efficient athletic activity ever.

Here’s what my Saturday looked like yesterday:

  • 4:10 am – Get up, eat breakfast, get ready for bike ride.
  • 5:00 am – Ride to meet Dad; ride together to the start of Flying Wheels.
  • 6:30 am – Our group is together, so we start riding Flying Wheels. Ride the ride, a total of 5:05 moving time plus about 45 minutes of stops for water, food, and restrooms.
  • 12:30 pm – Finish the ride and eat free ice cream while chatting with many other bike friends I didn’t ride with but saw at various points in the ride.
  • 1:00 pm – Ride home very, very slowly with Dad and a couple friends.
  • 1:45 pm – Eat enormous bagel sandwich (also very slowly), take shower, lay down and rest.
  • 3:30 pm – Benji is up from “nap” — it’s time to get going again!
  • 4:00 pm – Drive with Benji to Redmond to meet in-laws. Walk to Benji’s “favorite” hair cut place (a Great Clips, sigh) and wait for a million years while an entire enormous Indian family all get their hair cut first. While waiting, go for a walk with Papa Gary and have an adventure.
  • 5:30 pm – Finally done getting hair cut. We won’t quibble about how even it is. Give big tip for the hassle of Benji squirming around all over the place. Walk to Anderson Park for a little time in the sandbox.
  • 6:00 pm – Drive home and administer snack along the way. Get home, Ian feeds Benji a burrito (after pasta, Benji’s favorite food) while I did something that I’ve forgotten. I think it must’ve been wash dishes and prep cookie materials.
  • 6:40 pm – Start bedtime routine.
  • 7:20 pm – Benji is “down” (in fact, he went to sleep faster than usual, probably thanks to taking a walk in the afternoon) so we eat whatever dinner we can scrounge.
  • 7:30 pm – Bake cookies for church tomorrow (while listening to a podcast about scientology, which is fascinating).
  • 8:40 pm – Finish cookies, go to bed exhausted.

I was all excited to sleep until 6:30, which is when Benji’s allowed to wake us up on weekends… but my body decided that since I woke up at 4:10 yesterday morning, I probably wanted to keep waking up around then. So I woke up at 4:30 am. Oh well. I sleep a lot less in the summer and a lot more in the winter anyway, I assume thanks to the extreme differences in amount of daylight.

Anyway, that’s not a totally unusual Saturday. After riding 100+ miles, I’m the “go” parent in the afternoon. We’ll always do something — get together with friends, go to a park, play in the back yard. Sometimes we’ll have people coming over for dinner in the evening, which means I’m also tidying the house and prepping and cooking dinner, and then spending the time with friends later into the evening.

Compare this to Dad’s normal recovery routine: Eat a big meal; take a soaky bath; take a long nap; wake up, do some quiet activities, and then go to bed again.

No wonder I need a nap on Sunday afternoons!

OH! Last thing: Our “waiting for the hair cut” adventure. We walked with Papa Gary on a little path that goes through the woods behind the shopping center, and we found some old train tracks.

Saturday Afternoon Adventures: Benji's Photo
(Benji took this picture himself)

There was a creek (Bear Creek? I think?) with a tiny train trestle and a tiny barge in the stream. It had a sign, not pictured, that said it was a salmon research vessel. Huh.
Saturday Afternoon Adventures: Salmon Research Barge
We played Pooh Sticks on the trestle for a while, although I felt rather nervous that there were no railings or anything to keep Someone from falling over.

Saturday Afternoon Adventures: Secret Train Tracks

Saturday Afternoon Adventures: Anderson Park

Why I Shop at My Local Bike Shop

I needed new tires for my commuter bike. After five months of commuting through downtown Seattle, my old tires had in a glass and debris collection displayed in a rubber matrix. Now, I’ve really liked my old tires:

  • They were 32s, wider and comfier and better at handling the extra weight of commuting than 25s or 23s.
  • They had reflective sidewalls, which I liked for winter riding.
  • They resisted punctures magnificently, including one time I ran over a huge chunk of glass, saw it sticking out of my tire, stopped and pulled it out, and kept riding–and never got a flat.

Because I wanted my tires on Sunday, to ride on Monday, I went to my local bike shop, where I know all the guys well already. They were moderately busy, but made time to slap some new tires on my bike.

At first I said I wanted the same tires I already had, for the reasons previously mentioned. We chatted a bit more, and I mentioned my desire to lighten my commuter bike up a bit (without compromising its inherent commuter-y-ness). When I mentioned this, they said, “Are you sure you want the same old tires? We have these other tires you should consider.” They suggested a 32 tire that had a Kevlar bead rather than a steel one, and thinner sidewalls, which make the tires lighter. I decided, what the heck, why not try the new ones? As long as I don’t get more flats, it won’t hurt.

Then, as the put the tires on, I received a veritable dissertation-level discussion of the various factors to consider in tire selection. The factors, apparently, include (but are not limited to):

  • Bead material – Kevlar (lighter, used in high-end tires for bikes wanting to go faster) vs steel (heavier, commonly used on more everyday tires)
  • Sidewall thickness – Thinner (faster but potentially more flats) vs thicker (slower but fewer flats)
  • Width – Thinner vs thicker (there is a huge discussion going on in cycling circles, where in recent history skinny tires have ruled, but wider tires are gaining traction [so to speak–har, har, har])
  • Tire pressure – Very high (common among high-end road bikes; makes sidewalls stiffer which results in faster rolling, but a bumpier ride) vs slightly lower (too low = pinch flats; but with the “right” tire [ie, the ones they were selling me, naturally!], lower pressure plus softer sidewalls can result in an equally fast but much more comfortable ride)

Now, I’m no hipster on a singlespeed, even though I did have a road bike with disc brakes before they were cool. I’m no randonneur in love with my steel bike that includes bespoke metal fenders, integrated dynamo-driven lights, and front and rear rack for full touring or 500-km self-supported rides (on which I would use handmade in the USA panniers, of course).

I love my super-cool bike tech, including the di2 electronic shifting components I bought off a friend for my fast bike. I like carbon fiber and the lightest weight.

But I also like data, and there’s some evidence that slightly fatter tires with lower pressure can, in fact, be both more comfortable and at least equally as fast as skinny, high-pressure tires. Now, the caveat from my bike shop guys was that, for my fast road bike, I’d do well to stay with the 23s or 25s I’m already running; it’s really in the wider tires that changes have occurred lately.

I’m commuting on these new miracle tires starting on Monday; we will see if I notice the difference.

Biking and Working

I haven’t mentioned biking lately. When I started at Tamarac, I worried about fitting biking in with a full time job and time with my family.

Biking helps keep me calm and grounded, as well as healthy and fit; it’s where I have friendships forged by shared (self-inflicted, to be sure) suffering, and I push myself mentally and physically. It brings me a deep satisfaction that I don’t find anywhere else and is one of the foundations of how I think of myself.

In short, biking is very important to me. Before I took the job, Ian and I spent a good amount of time strategizing how to allow me to get in the biking I need while balancing Ian’s mental health time and my family time.

It’s been two and a half months, and I think we’re finding a balance that works for now: During the week, I commute home by bike three days. I follow a training plan I put together to do intervals or other targeted riding, so it’s not just the same slogging along every time. On the weekend, I ride on Saturday, making sure to get home before Benji gets up from nap at 3:30 pm.

When I commute, I normally ride my pink bike. I built it up as a commuter bike almost 10 years ago (disc brakes before it was cool!) and it continues to serve me beautifully in that capacity.
Snowy Pink Bike

Now, some of my biking buddies assert that bike weight doesn’t matter. They say it’s all about the motor (how strong your legs are), and that a slightly lighter bike doesn’t make much difference in how fast you go, especially over flats. I’ve ridden my pink commuter bike 20+ times on this route now, and I set myself a goal of averaging 18 mph on my commute consistently. When I started riding, I averaged 15 to 15.5 mph when riding steadily, a heart rate of in the 150s.

I’ve been following my training plan, including taking rest or cross-training days and riding in heart rate zones that feel pretty easy, and working hard on my Saturday rides.

Last Monday, riding alone on my pink bike with probably a bit of a tailwind, I averaged 16.6 mph.


I had a kind of side-wind that may have at times been a tailwind or other times been more of a headwind. It’s a little hard to say if that helped or hindered me. But that seems pretty indicative of my commuting pace at the moment. On the long, flat Burke Gilman/Sammamish River Trail section, I averaged about 17.2 mph.

But on Friday, I took the fast bike to work (this is my view as I approach the bus stop by my office; that’s my fast bike on the front of the bus).
Fast Bike, Slow Bus
I normally don’t even ride on Fridays, resting my legs for a big Saturday ride. But the weather got to over 55 degrees and not raining — how could I resist? For the first time I tried taking my fast bike on a commute. I left all nonessentials at work, including a set of clothes I now have to bring back home, and carried the essentials in a small backpack.

While I’m sure it’s true that slight differences in weight may not matter, what I can say is that I averaged 18 mph on my fast bike, keeping my heart rate in the same zones as I normally on my steady commuting days. On the flat section, I averaged 19.1 mph, almost 2 mph faster than my regular commuter bike. And that was with some notable wind, most of it not in my favor.

That bike is faster in so many ways, it’s hard to say if weight definitively made a difference. Whatever the case, I’m willing to keep calling my Cannondale “the fast bike.”

I hoped to ride it this weekend, but yet again, nasty weather precluded that. My pink bike has gotten a lot of miles this winter, what with having the rainiest winter ever. On Saturday I had to be home in time to go to a friend’s wedding, so Dad kindly started our ride an hour earlier than usual. With that start time, we spent the first hour riding in rain. My feet soaked through and I couldn’t feel my toes. You’d think I’d be better at this whole thing after all the practice I’ve had this year…

Anyway, despite the rain, three other people besides me and Dad showed up.

I embarrassed myself by being a complete wimp, and I wasn’t able to hold the pace when everyone started riding into the mid-20 mph range. The very things that make that pink bike a wonderful commuter — the weight, the rack, the fenders, the heavy-duty tires and wheels, its very frame durability — all drag me down on a ride like that.

Plus, later that day, I also found out that it’s not my favorite time of month… and that seems to always make it harder to ride. I read in my Bicycling for Women book that blood doesn’t transport oxygen as well at some times of a woman’s cycle. One of the things I struggled with yesterday was just feeling like I couldn’t catch my breath, or that I was breathing really hard for my level of effort. Perhaps that’s partly the deal.

Anyway, that’s biking right now. I think it’s going well; we’ll just keep figuring things out as our needs evolve.