Monday, August 18, 2008

Autumn Approaches

Most people look forward to sping - the daffodils or the return of robins. Then there are those anxiously awaiting the start of summer, wearing shorts as early and as long as possible. Me? By the end of July I'm looking for the first signs of Autumn. I scope out the changing leaves, the landscape bushes that slowly turn orange red, the cooler temperatures and autumn rain. I long for the months spent in jeans and sweaters. I dream of sitting in an overstuffed chair with a good book, hot mug of chai, and dogs snuggled under my lap blanket as I listen to the rain outside.

It's nearly here. Today's rumbling storm is a hint of the autumn to come. Soup season. Pot Pies, Stew, Chili, and fresh baked bread. Cyclocross season. Crazy, cold, muddy, get your game on and ride like hell so you can get back and huddle around the firepit with your team season. Dark, heavy beers. Hot tea, chai, and cocoa. Jeans, boots, and favorite sweaters old & new.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Doug is my Hero

He's my mentor, my trainer.  Every time we ride together I laugh, I learn, I work harder, and I grow.

I don't know if he rolled out with the 19s knowing I'd follow, but there we were.  I had doubts that I'd finish with that group, but knew I'd kick myself if I didn't try.  The ride was long, flat, Hot, and we kept a high pace that ending with a 17.4 average.  46 miles, and again, No Knee Pain!  A new distance record, and I am confident that I'm in the clear.  There were a couple of areas where my quads tired out, but Doug would tuck me under his wing and pull me back.

On the return we were rolling along a very quiet road.  Bob and I were chatting about the ride and the heat.  Soon I was struggling - breathing heavier, working harder, and conversation eventually stopped so I could focus on keeping the wheel in front of me.  We get to the end of the road, I'm winded, and mention that was a bit of a push.  Doug laughs because he decided we needed a little interval, so he kicked it up to 23.  Typical... but I understand his motives.  I laugh it off as we turn the corner.

After the ride he congratulates me for a strong finish.  I think we both expected that I'd blow up and meander the rest of the way back.  How exhilarating to be wrong!

Thank you, Doug - you are a true friend.

Looking back on my New Years Resolutions, number one reads "Proficient A19, Saturday Rides".  Done!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

He Lets Me Win

For the first time in far too long, I had a great ride.

Since most of our familiar country roads have been recently chip-sealed and thus rendered useless for road bikes, we decided to go up. And not just a little ramble either, let's really test out the updated bike fit & PT progress by going UP. Mason Hill, More Mason Hill, Dorland, Skyline, down Elliot/Rock Creek and home. A whopping 32 miles. Painful, demanding, let's remind the cardio vascular system what it means to push miles.

It was hot and dry - breathing burns. My nose wanted to run, meaning I had extra obstacles between the air and my lungs. I need water, not just for fuel but to relieve my dry throat as I gasp, swallow more air than water, and again find it difficult to breathe. The result is anything but feminine, but I'm climbing this hill as long as my legs will carry me.

The legs keep turning over. The old left knee ache never surfaces - not even a blip. Focus on cadence, and suddenly climbing is faster. Focus on breathing, relaxing follows. Matt turns on the tunes for a kick up Dorland to Moreland, and we're flying. The road in front of us is higher than the road behind, but we're flying up it with ease. I focus on pedal stroke, heels down, pull thru, quad/ham/quad/ham yikes my calves try to ball in to knots, but we're nearly to Skyline and I am able to use the pedals to stretch as we roll downhill. They relax, and don't show up again until the final climb. We ride on.

I find a few stretches to really push ~ spin the legs quickly, dig in, relax the upper body, and see where my legs take me. Right past Matt? Wee! He doesn't attack, but keeps my wheel, encouraging me along. He calls out our finish mark, and ensures my wheel gets there first. Another couple attacks, out of the saddle and I skip up the hill ahead of him. I win. I've seen him tear up races and drop the field, but he lets me win.

The ride hurt ~ blood pulsing in my head & behind my eye nearly the entire ride. Legs unfamiliar with this much effort, this much climbing, this much pushing down one hill and up the next. Lungs burn in dry heat, sucking down gnats and dust. But the flats fly by. Looking slightly up hill but feeling as tho you are going down ~ that is beautiful freedom.

We're nearing home - a four lane split road with highway speeds, and he asks if I'm ready for some speed work. Here we go. I settle in the drops, and keep my wheel within inches of his. I have no idea what our speed is, but I'm not about to slack off. Cars zoom past, and within 200 feet of the right turn lane, I feel it. "I'm cooked!" I shout - but it's windy and I'm behind him and he has no idea what I said. I ease up just a touch, feeling the early warning signs of anaerobic efforts that would lead to a violent emptying of the stomach. With a little more work, I'll be able to make that entire stretch. I recover quickly, and settle back into a quick clip down Evergreen & home.

I have no idea what my effort has produced. I'm riding blind. No heart rate data, no mileage, no speed. It's just me, my legs, and my sweet, supportive husband. I'm not in top form. I haven't hit my weight goals for the summer, and my training has been sporadic. But my biofeedback tells me that even with all the setbacks this year that I'm riding better than ever. There are vast improvements on the horizon. It was a difficult ride, but I feel great. And he let me win.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Long Weekend Update

I'm exhausted, and I didn't even work out this weekend.

Things in the bridal party seem to be patched up.  Kudos to the bride & groom for working it thru with the best (wo)man.  We visited the location on Saturday morning, and it will be Gorgeous.  

Criteriums are a blast to watch.  We met up with our race team to watch the Twilight Crit downtown Friday night, and to cheer for teammates.  Saturday afternoon I supported & cheered for Matt, Paul, and Brian (also watching Paul's son while he cheered "go daddy! go paul!" during the race.)  Matt was able to stretch out the field further than anyone else who took the lead, and walked away with some nice swag from the 3rd prime.  

This morning we woke up at 5 am to make our way downtown to support the Bridge Pedal.  I helped 5 cars make it across the line of riders, but mainly stood there and smiled at the thousands of cyclists who rolled past.  We finished, rode a school bus all around Portland, and made it back to our side of town for lunch at 1:30.  Top that off with a long nap intermittently interrupted by the Hillsboro Air Show, and I'm feeling worn out, slightly sunburnt, and in need of a shower.

I really wanted to ride this weekend.  Perhaps later tonight I'll jump on the trainer & work on my pedal stroke and rpms for 45 minutes.  That and the stretches, plus pushups & planks should help me feel like I did something active for my body.  I'm looking forward to resetting my workout schedule and getting back to the gym this week.

Only two weeks until my first Kermesse!  It's time to get the CX bike out and dust her off.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Fun with Herbs

One of our dear friends sent us home with three bundles of herbs
  • Fresh Lavender which is hanging from a clip on the fridge to dry out
  • Basil - made a delicious tomato basil soup
  • Pineapple Sage - Caribbean Jerk Chicken.  Spicy & Delicious
I stumbled on to this recipe post-college, cooking for Matt and his roommate.  It looks crazy, uses the majority of the spices found in a typical kitchen, and can be as spicy as you like.  (Yes, these guys did have all the spices in their cupboard.)
Adapted from Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen by Kevin Mills & Nancy Mills

the Marinade - Caribbean Jerk
- per 1lb of chicken/pork/tofu
1/4 c vinegar, any variety
5T citrus juice - use a mix of 2 or more.  Unsweetened grapefruit and lime are my favorites
2T low sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp ground allspice, dried thyme*
1 tsp cayenne pepper, black pepper, sage (pineapple sage!), sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg
Minced garlic - as much as you like
Optional:  2T oil, Diced onion, jalapenos, etc

the Details
Mix, Marinate for 30min-overnight.  Cook however you prefer. Works as well on the BBQ as it does in a Wok.  Excess juices can be boiled down to a thick, dark sauce for extra kick, just be sure to cook it thoroughly.
Serve with Balsamic Tomato & Cucumber salad, Jasmine Rice, and your favorite Caribbean inspired beverage.

*Thyme is your heat control.  Start small, then work your way up.  Don't mistake ground thyme for dried, or you might not make it past the 3rd bite.  I prefer to use the 1 1/2 tsp dried, but to give it a quick mash with the mortar & pestle before adding to the marinade.  Maybe everyone but me already knows that thyme is heat.  I'd never used it before this recipe.

Things to Avoid.

Roof mounted bike racks.  If you ever park your car in a garage, save yourself the hassle & go straight for the hitch mount or buy a vehicle that can store the bikes inside.  The bikes are fine, the Mini is sad and bruised, the garage door is functional again.  

People you don't click with.  Perhaps this is more exclusive to the temperaments of women, but there are definitely some women out there that I just do not get along with.  It's oil & water.  I recognize this, and strive to behave at Minimum with decorum and respect - and some humor to keep the mood light.  But, sometimes this isn't enough.  Last night, for example.  I met my sister in law, a bride-to-be, and the Best (Wo)man at the bridal shop for our fitting.  The BW and I just won't ever be friends, but I thought that I was able to maintain courtesy, open dialog, and again some humor.  I guess not.  After spending far too long at the shop & trying to help identify MOTB dress options, things got weird.  She threw out a new term that neither SIL or I had heard, and we both were under the impression that it was a bit of a back handed compliment.  We asked her to clarify (we're being "so Hamptons"?  wha.the.ll?)  and that really didn't help.  Things got uncomfortable fairly quickly, so I went straight back to browsing the racks.  She used the term again, SIL tried a safe-yet-witty retort, I added mine, and suddenly we're in conflict mode.  She tells me that she's right there if I have a problem with her, I should just be up front about it.  Woah - hold on - what just happened here?  SIL is afraid we're about to have a throw down in the middle of the dress shop, and I have no idea what I've done to result in this kind of escalation.  Will we ever be friends?  No, but can we please just find that generic courtesy that will get us thru the wedding?  Next update:  Saturday afternoon, after we all visit the wedding location to discuss setup.