Marin County Alpine Dam Ride

I finished Levi’s Gran Fondo on Saturday and didn’t think I’d be riding much the rest of my trip. 

Wrong!

My original Sunday plans didn’t work out, so I had the entire day until my 6:30 pm flight to find something to do. I had my fast bike, an extra change of clean clothes, a ride buddy, and a route with promised spectacular views. Why not?!

It took some figuring out — would the timing work so I could still return my bike for boxing and shipping? Could I do it and not miss my flight? Could my legs do another ride after Levi’s the day before?? Continue Reading >>

Levi’s Gran Fondo Ride Report

This is us before the ride. How optimistic and eager we look!

John and I started together, but got separated pretty quickly. We were in the first group to go, doing the longest route, and let me say — wow those riders are fast. I had already decided to just ride my own ride, regardless of what other people around me were doing. As a result, although I rode in proximity with other people, especially at the beginning, I spent most of the ride alone. That’s fine; it’s what I expected and it worked well for me. No pressure to push beyond what my leg could sustain. Continue Reading >>

Levi’s Gran Fondo Final Training Ride Report

Yesterday I did this ride.

Now, a few things about yesterday.

  • Due to some commute traffic excitement, I ended up commuting home by bike on Friday. I always, always rest on Fridays because my legs need one or, before a super strenuous ride, two days to rest completely for optimal performance. Even a super-easy slow ride seems to have a very tangible impact in the next day’s performance.
  • The weather was really marginal: thunderstorms and stiff winds, accompanied by the occasional wind gust for excitement. It’s late September; that’s what I’d expect. Unfortunately it coincided with the final peak training ride for the Levi’s Gran Fondo I’m doing on October 6. 
  • I’ve been dealing with iliac artery compression in my left leg for the last year and a half. I could write a whole post about this, but the upshot is that when my heart rate gets high, I experience excruciating, crippling pain in my left quad and calf, far beyond anything I’ve ever known from exercise before. It’s like an 11 on a scale of 1 to 10. If I try to push through, the leg weakens until I can’t pedal anymore. 

I’ve been training for this Gran Fondo with my friend John Jester, who’s gotten super strong and fast the last couple years. Now, with my leg, I can’t exert myself to chase people who are faster unless I want to experience excruciating agony. It’s incredibly frustrating. Anyway, John and I have been training together, and yesterday we met up for the last of the hard training rides before the Gran Fond itself.

We’ve ridden up Squak Mountain a bunch of times the last few weeks; its sustained grade and length make it a perfect training hill. Yesterday as we started climbing, a thunderstorm hit with torrential rain. I’d brought a jacket (the best on-bike rain jacket I’ve ever owned, bar none) and stopped to put it on. This was an on-again, off-again day, as it was in the mid-60s, making wearing too many clothes an issue also. Continue Reading >>

Solo Mt. St. Helens Biking Adventure

Yesterday I got to have a microscopic vacation, 12 hours completely by myself. Wow! What did I do to earn this wonderful reward? Nothing; Ian made it possible out of the goodness of his heart.

Also, he understands how much training for this upcoming Gran Fondo means to me, and he’s being extremely accommodating.

Double also, the Washington Department of Ecology once again rated air around here “Unhealthy,” thanks to the wildfires that have filled our air with toxins and haze for the last three weeks. My solo adventure stemmed from a desire to find somewhere else with better air to train. Continue Reading >>

Diary of a Commute Bike

This morning started like all normal mornings. The garage door opening let in sunlight — sunlight isn’t the normal part. I mean the garage door opening.

Then my partner, who’s the engine, and I did a short trip to a bus stop. It only takes a couple minutes, but we always have to stop two or three times. I don’t like having to stop so much, and sometimes the engine seems a tad anxious, too–usually when we leave a little later. But we usually make it to the bus stop before the bus.

Diary of a Commute Bike: Bus Stop

We spend a lot of time standing around here. I don’t know why. I’m perfectly capable of doing the whole ride to work, but my engine insists on riding the bus.

Diary of a Commute Bike: On the Bus

I don’t care for riding the bus so much. Bikes are made to have both wheels firmly on the ground, thank you very much.

But once we go across the two bridges and get to the busy noisy place, we get off the bus and my engine and I get rolling again for another short trip with many stops.

There’s a few things I don’t understand about the busy noisy place.

First, we have to stop all the time – six or seven times, maybe more, in less than 10 minutes of travel time. We would get there much faster if the engine wouldn’t stop me so often.

Diary of a Commute Bike: Seattle Stop Light on 7th Ave

Second, sometimes I noticed we get our own special road just for partnerships like us.
Diary of a Commute Bike: 7th Ave Bike Lane
I see lots of us zooming around. The other day we went on one special road for a very short way–about 0.3 miles, the computer told me–short, but super fancy. Later I heard the engine mention that road cost $3.8 million.

What I want to know is: Why’d someone spend all that money for that? My engine and I like our special roads, but just marking it with paint is good enough for us. We didn’t care for the fancy raised up section and the way it feels like we’re on the sidewalk with the intersections with driveways. Sidewalks aren’t for us! Why are they making pretend sidewalks and calling them bike roads?

Anyway, we got to the dark place where I hang out with my friends while the engine does other stuff for a long time.

Diary of a Commute Bike: Hanging Out

As usual, I spent the day there hanging out and shooting the breeze with the other bikes there. I’m meeting lots of unfamiliar bikes who say they only go out when it’s sunny. I say, what’s the point of that? I have fenders, and the engine seems to work okay in the wet, although maybe not as optimally as when it’s sunny. I don’t know why that should matter, but apparently it does.

Eventually, the engine came back and we rode back to the garage home, where we started. I don’t understand why the engine does this most days — not every day, but mostly five days out of seven. Why??

Sometimes she seems to like seeing what’s out there, like on this ride…

Diary of a Commute Bike: Pretty 520 Sky

Diary of a Commute Bike: Pretty Lake Washington

… But other times she hardly looks around at all. What’s the point of that?

Anyway, I’ve noticed there are places — always at the same spots — where the engine pedals slower but breathes a lot louder. She did it again on the way back this time, even though I’m sure I heard her say she was going to not breathe heavy while riding for a while.

Diary of a Commute Bike: Market Street

I’m not sure why we have to slow down so much on those sections, or why she seems to be panting at times, but after those times, I often get to go fast.

I love going fast! It’s my favorite thing!

Except sometimes the engine slows us down for no reason I can see. And sometimes she doesn’t help at all — I have to do all the work. How fair is that?! When it’s up to me, I always make sure we roll along plenty fast.

On the way back, we have an awful lot of times we have to stop. I don’t like that. I want to go faster. We especially already stop at some of those places almost every time.

Diary of a Commute Bike: Eastside Stoplight at Bellevue Way

Diary of a Commute Bike: Kirkland Stoplight at Lake WA Blvd

Diary of a Commute Bike: Stoplight at 132nd and 100th

Maybe the engine likes the view?

Anyways, lately I’ve noticed all this fluffy white snow floating around, except it doesn’t melt and it’s much warmer than regular snow. But just like regular snow, it piles up on the sides of sidewalks and the road.

Diary of a Commute Bike: Cottonwood Fluff

At first I was nervous going over it. Snow is slippery. But this stuff wasn’t slippery at all — just super fluffy. I noticed the engine went with her mouth closed when there was the most fluff, but that seems ridiculous. I bet it tastes like sugar. Yum! If I had a mouth, I’d totally try tasting some.

So then we finished our ride home. I know the route pretty well, except sometimes the engine takes us different ways. Sometimes we just do loops with very slow parts and very fast parts; other times we just go on different roads and I’m not sure why.

Other times we meet up with the engine and bike partnership called “Dad,” and we ride along together. We used to meet up with another partnership called “Michael” quite often, but they moved to Australia and we never see them anyone. I’m sad about that. I miss my friend. I think Australia must be another big noisy place far from here.

When we got home this one day, there were two other engines out playing. My engine spends a lot of time with them. I think they must be extra-special to her.

Diary of a Commute Bike: Home

So that’s what my life is like. Maybe another time I’ll write about the days we don’t commute, and instead go on long rides. But right now I’m out of time. The bus is about to let us off in the big noisy place and we got to roll!

I hope we go fast.

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.
  • Continue Reading >>