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Early morning rides

I’m not a morning person, but in order to maintain continuity in my fitness, I’ve started getting up early to ride.  I wake between 5 or 6am, sneak in an hour or so, shower, dress, and then drive 45 minutes to work.  I’ve been about to eek out some mileage by doing this.  I’ve also avoided the wave of afternoon thunderstorms that have been plaguing the Northeast for the past 3 weeks.  It’s so hot, humid, and wet here, there are few opportunities to ride without overheating or getting doused.

The early morning rides are nice.  Few cars.  The sun rising.  A hint of coolness still in the air.  Animals. It’s a very beautiful, peaceful way to wake up. Until last week, when as I was cresting a hill just two towns away at about 6:30AM, when I head this ringing pop from my front wheel.  The bike immediately slowed.  I pulled over and discovered one of my spokes dangling helplessly from the rim.


So what happens when you bust a spoke is your wheel warps.  This makes the wheel impossible to spin.  I was only 6 miles from home but on a truck route with no sidewalks, and as I mentioned, it was 6:30AM. I called my girlfriend who did not answer.  I started to walk home with the front wheel lifted parallel to the ground.  I was traipsing across front lawns, my cleats sinking into the wet, soft earth. At the rate I was going, I wasn’t getting home for another 1.5 hours which would certainly make me late for my new job, which is a 45 minute commute one way.  It was a “save thyself” situation.  I stopped on a front lawn and removed the errant spoke entirely.  Then I was able to bully the wheel just straight enough to roll through the brakes, which I had opened wide.  I wouldn’t have front brakes.  And my wheel was still pretty warped, but it would roll.  So I would roll with it.

I gingerly rolled home, slow but a heck of a lot faster than walking would have been.  I made it to work on time and still got my workout for the day.


Good cyclist, bad blogger

I’ve been slacking in my blogging duties, but for a great many good reasons.  Paramount is that I’ve been riding my bike, which — let’s face it — is the entire point, right?

I joined the May Massive on Strava, a simple little contest where you just ride as much as you can in the month of May.  I’ve been trying to ride 100 miles a week but in truth, I keep hovering around 70.  Last week I managed more than 90.  This week, the rains came, and I’m not going to come out with a big number.  Not that it’s about numbers.

I easily get caught up with being competitive, even when I have no business pretending that I can compete.  And I shouldn’t compete with friends (even ones I’ve never met on Strava), but in my head, I’m seeing their numbers and thinking, “I need to ride more than 100 miles this week, because she did, and she did, and he did, and he’s already banked 200 miles this week.”  This is just who I am, when I’m alone in my head.  Then I snap out of it and have a chat with myself and remind myself that I’m doing this for fun.

Ar we having fun yet?

Are we having fun yet?

Fun.  Remember that?  Well I should.  And I should try for more.  I’ve been riding a ton the last 2 years, a ton for me anyway.  I’ve grown really dependent on the maintenance high that frequent cycling has given me.  It’s the best stress management and mood manager ever (not that I’m <ahem> moody.  No, not me).  So no matter how my ride starts, it almost always ends with me feeling less burdened, more carefree, and with better coping skills. This has been especially helpful to me this year, as it has been a tougher one for me as far as years go.  I think my higher brain is gently trying to remind me to keep some of the riding fun so that this quality is not lost.  It is really the fundamental reason that I ride.  To feel good.

I’m pleased with how I’ve grown stronger on the bike, too.  A poor climber, I always avoided hills.  Now I almost always try to include them.  As a result, I’ve performed better and better on these climbs, shaving minutes off segments in some cases.  While I don’t think I’ll ever be fast, and am now stronger. I survive climbs better than ever now, and I recover quicker.  It feels great.  And while I don’t want to lose some of the performance I’ve gained, I don’t want to lose the fun either. Keeping a good balance will be important, as it is only late May, and we have a good 6 months of cycling ahead before the snows grow deep.

So sorry about neglecting my blogging duties.  It’s only because we got 2 inches of rain today that you’re even reading this.  And that’s a good thing.  It’s the whole point.


(Note: the photo is of my son at about 6 months of age. He’s happier now that he’s old enough to actually ride a bike.)

April vacation, but not for me

This week is the week schoolchildren pine for–their spring break, April Vacation.  And while my son is doing a week long happy dance, I’m left trying to figure out how I’m going to get any saddle time this week.

shadow bike

I have some ideas….although it remains to be seen if they will pan out. I sometimes tempt my son to ride bikes with me, and although it’s not the kind of bike ride I would want to do, it’s something.  He’s 8, so he peters out after about 5 miles. I can hire a sitter, but that gets expensive fast.  I have one coming today, and at $8-10 bucks an hour, anything more than 20 miles gets pricey.  I am planning to drive out to Boston to visit the family, and I could take the bike along, but truthfully there are no areas to really ride where my family lives.  It’s too congested and drivers there see a point value when they see a cyclist on the road, so I have never tried a serious ride so close to the city.  I heard Boston has improved, but alas, I just don’t trust my fellow Boston drivers with my life, for the sake of a quick workout.  I also considered bringing my mountain bike home, since Lynn Woods is nearby and boasts some excellent mountain biking. Alas, I just don’t feel comfortable riding there solo, not due to difficulty level but do to crime.  Again, maybe it’s improved since I grew up but too many dead girls wound up in the Lynn Woods when I was a kid, so I really don’t want to ride there unless my not-so little brother comes along.

Overall, I’m not feeling encouraged about the amount of riding I’ll get in this week.  I hate to think that I would resort to the trainer, but I may have to.


The air is out of the tires.

The title sums up how my last 3 rides have been.  Pretty flat.  After months of intense training and racing cyclocross, I decided I was for all purposes done for the season.  I started riding “for fun.”  And that was–I thought–a good plan.

It should have been a good plan.  I started mountain biking.  Lower mileage, because mileage no longer matters.  I passed my goal of 2000 miles a couple of weeks ago so I really laid off the gas and transitioned into riding for pleasure.  The problem is, it hasn’t been.

Of course that isn’t ALL true.  But there is something missing.

I wonder if it’s just the natural low following the high of my freshman ‘cross season.  Although I admit, I needed the break.  My muscles felt frayed and tight.  Overtraining was mentioned as a possible problem.  The weather hasn’t been ideal either.  I’m riding in temps that flirt with freezing, and the days are so very short.

I’ve even tried changing up locations.  Today I went to Hatfield to ride. A picturesque farming community.  I liked the stately homes in the middle of the small town.  The road followed the Connecticut river. A fine mist was falling and it was about 40 degrees.  12.2 miles, a short ride, and my only elevation gain was 36 feet.  Dreadfully flat…..just like my mood after these rides.

Pausing to rest.  The light is fading on the season.

Pausing to rest. The light is fading on the season.

I’m not sure what to do about this.  Should I take a real break?  Stop riding altogether for a couple of months?  Enter the one last cyclocross race offered in New England on the weekend of the 15-16th of December?  I already feel my fitness slipping.  And lets face it, snow is almost certainly on the way. The idea of isolating my workouts to the trainer is a bit soul-crushing.

Suggestions?  I’m all ears.



Vacation Riding

So launching a business the week before a long ago scheduled vacation isn’t the smartest thing a person can do.  After a really, really crazy week, I did get away for a week and was able to still handle the growing pains on the home front.

Vacation started heading north to Portland, Maine.  We stayed in Old Port, right in downtown Portland.  There are some great shops and restaurants and getting around is easy.  I haven’t spent any significant time in the Portland area so now after a couple of days in the area–I have some clear ideas of where I’d like to ride.  I was particularly fond of Freeport and Casco Bay–beautiful long climbing roads with a warm salty scent of summer–it was quintessential Maine.  Still, the closest sport I participated in while in Freeport was shopping the 40% sale at North Face and Patagonia.

Instead of road riding at Casco Bay, I did check out the mountain biking at Bradbury Mountain.  The mountain wasn’t so much a mountain, but it was a boatload of fun at Bradbury.  The trails were cut and maintained by the Gorham Bike & Ski Club according to the signs trailside.  There was some great singletrack–I particularly enjoys a trail called Fox Run–a sweet run of singletrack with rocks and roots and switchbacky turns.  I really enjoyed the ride–complete fun and everything mountain biking should be.

After a couple of days in Maine, we trekked north and west, through the White Mountains of New Hampshire and into the Green Mountains of Vermont, and we checked into The Stowe Mountain Resort.  A pricy spot, but really spectacular.  We did a leisurely ride on the rec path the evening we got there.  I really recommend the path for families and anyone who just wants a completely chill and pleasurable cruise.  Stowe is a beautiful resort community and they do a good job letting the natural beauty speak for itself.  There are several bridges and stream crossings and the path runs alongside Mountain Road with woods and farmland and a cold mountain stream running with the path.

The following day I made sure I hit the road with the ‘cross bike.  Talk about climbing.  It’s hard not to climb at Stowe.  I climbed Mountain Road which I had anticipated being pretty rough from the car ride.  It wasn’t all bad, but I hardly pulled out any QOMs according to Strava.  I won’t beat myself up for it though.  There are pros that train on those mountains, and I’m a 41-year-old woman who does this for fun.  Most people would take one look at the hills and stick to the bike path.  The scenery at every turn is epic.  Only 5 miles away is the Trapp Family Lodge (cue Sound of Music soundtrack here). The mountains are just incredible, lush, green and sweeping.  It’s an easy place to be and an easy place to stay.

After my big climb, I was fool enough to do a 4 mile hike to Mount Pinnacle that afternoon.  The tightness in my knees doubled with foot climbing and I took a break the next couple of days.  I did some light hiking to a waterfall called Bingham Falls, which was beautiful and cold and packed with people cooling off in the abnormally hot and humid temperatures.

All & all I didn’t pack in the miles one would expect out of a vacation week–I slipped from my goal of 100 per week to under 50.  But the change of scenery was restorative and it was nice to do a little swimming and hiking as well to round off my activities. It’s also funny to me that I have all this great riding and exploring fairly close to home.  Actually, it makes me feel pretty lucky that within 4 hours I can be truly out of the hills and into the biggest mountains the Northeast offers.  It’s not the Rockies, but it’s still pretty awesome.


Discovering Strava

I have a history of early adoption when it comes to certain segments of technology. Not all, but some. This is why I’m kicking myself for not signing up for Strava earlier.

I have previously used Bike Journal to track my mileage, but Strava takes that and amps it up about 1000 degrees. It wraps social media, stats, competition, and geolocation into a beautifully integrated tool for cyclists. It’s just so lovely, I can hardly stand it. What’s that sound? Yes that’s me, turning into a Strava Evangelist.

I must have a persuasive argument because I actually got Heather to sign up as well.

So, in light of the new data, I can see how I’m doing out there among the rest of the cyclists in the area. I can see I’m riding as often, just not as long as most of the group. Sure, I kind of already knew that, but pit me against others and you are going to see some more focused effort on my part.

I have set myself a mileage goal. Ok sure, it’s July and half the year is over but whatever. It’s on. I am looking to beat my old personal best of 2035 miles. Right now I am about 600 miles in so I have some work to do. And although I didn’t track all my rides this year with the Garmin (so I know that number is higher in real life), I am still going for recorded miles. I will take these miles any way I can get them. Riding with kiddo, errands by bike, getting the mail–by whatever means necessary I will get them.

Feel free to follow my efforts on Strava or on Twitter @sipclipandgo. I will follow back.



Not as much as I thought

Last week I had a rare amount of time to myself. My ex had my son for a week of vacation, and while I had to work, I wasn’t tethered to home like I normally am. I decided to take the opportunity to set a goal of 100 miles.

This seemed a pretty reasonable goal, yet I fell short. Significantly short–by about 37 miles. I’m surprised, and disappointed. But mostly surprised. I have felt as though I’m on the bike a lot over the last few weeks. But a couple of things are dragging the mileage down:
1.) Mountain biking. I can spend an hour in the woods and travel half the distance that I do on the road. Sometime less than half.
2.) Mechanical issues. I have had the worst luck with flats this year. Thank god for my cross bike. If I didn’t have it, I would be riding at all. That said, it’s heavier and the tires aren’t as sleek as the road bike. I average about 1.5 mph slower on the cross bike. Not a huge difference, but it adds up.
3.) Choices, choices. I have to own this. I ride a lot in my lunch break, which only give me 40-60 minutes to ride. I didn’t ride after work when there were no restriction on my schedule. I still employ other forms of exercise other than cycling. So I’m active 5/6 days a week, but only 3 or 4 of those are bike rides. And the rides are just aren’t long enough to add up.

So–I’m back to the original desire: ride more, ride longer. I need some 3 hr stretches for 50 milers. This is a choice that will require a bit more commitment.



What sounds like a firecracker?


My tire blew out on my ride the other day.  In all the years I’ve been riding this has never happened.  I really thought someone had thrown a firecracker underneath me (that actually has happened to me many times before).  The good news was I was only 1.25 miles out the door when the tube blew.  The bad news is that it was on a busy route 202 and I was in my road shoes.  Pushing the bike home wasn’t going to work without potentially trashing the rim.  So I hoisted the bike to my shoulder and started home.

I got about .75 miles home when a woman with an SUV stopped and offered me a ride.  I’m normally pretty cautious but she was female and there were 2 car seats in the back of the vehicle–so I decided it was a safe bet.  She introduced herself as Kendra of California who was moving to Connecticut and staying with family in the area.   After some friendly chit-chat I was thanking her profusely and grabbing the ‘cross bike to get my ride in.

I got out for another 45 minutes which wasn’t bad for a lunch hour ride.  And I have Kendra to thank.  There are still kind people in the world–Kendra is one of them!  Thanks again!


Float like a butterfly…

Suspicions confirmed:  Riding the cross bike and the mountain bike exclusively for the past 6 months has had a HUGE impact on my speed on the road bike.  I thought this would be the case, but wow–I mean, WOW.

Not that I was trying for faster–but I’ll take it.  I mean, who doesn’t want to go faster?  Anyway–I knew right away things were different when I took my first pedal stroke.  “My bike is so light…” I thought.  Compared to the ‘cross bike, the Dolce Elite is feather light (and this is no carbon fiber number–this is just a couple clicks above an entry-level road bike).  The handling was a little twitchy.  Such a delicate machine compared to the bikes I had been slogging along with.  And I’ve owned the Dolce Elite for 6 years now–how quickly I forgot.

I started the legs moving and drove that bike forward.  I didn’t try to hammer, I really wanted a fair comparison.  1st 5 miles–2 mins faster than average.  2nd 5 miles, 4 minutes faster than average. 3rd 5 miles, 3.5 minutes faster. Wow.  I plan on pushing it next time to see how far I can take it.  But by riding the cross bike so much, I’ve basically put myself at the fastest I’ve been, ever.  And now–this is not fast in the real world.  I am no undiscovered Evie Stevens, I assure you.  But in my little world, this is fast for me, and as I said before–I’ll take it.  And it’s only June!


Mt. Holyoke Summit Climb

Last week I only rode 3x but the rides are getting faster and stronger. Feeling like my legs from years past have returned I decided to try my luck climbing the auto road to the top of Mount Holyoke.

I did this only once before when I was training for the 70 mile Livestrong ride 3 years ago. It’s a good climb, starting off pretty intensely and the leveling off a bit in the middle, with a steep switchbacking finish to the top near the Skinner House. I got lucky and only contended with a couple of cars along the climb. There were lots of hikers on the road but they were easy to move around. I was up top before I knew it, the Garmin registering 1125 feet.

The best part was the ride down. I had to ride the brakes for a good part of it but when I had a straight enough path I had to be hitting 40 mph.

This climb wasn’t effortless. I felt it, for sure. I dug in a bit to get up that hill, but it was a huge psychological win for me. I feel very ready to step up the training, even though I am largely without a goal or endgame in mind, other than having a great time on my bike this summer.

Oh yeah. I did this on my ‘cross bike too. Heavier, rough tires and all. I am really eager to see how this translates on the road bike, which I have yet to take out.




The top! A rest well earned.


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