Sunday, April 24, 2011


I spent a few minutes trying to think of a clever title for this post, but in the end I went with minimalism. There are lots of wonderful things about spring biking, but the wind is not necessarily one of them. Up here in the sheltered hills of New England I suspect we don't know from wind, but it's still enough to make me nervous about being blown off my bike.

Last weekend I was out in the Berkshires for a meeting, and I went for an early morning ride with one of the other meeting attendees. Here's the scene while I waited to meet him at 6:15:

This isn't the best angle maybe, but yes, that flag is whipping in the wind. The good news is, the wind was really the least of my problems on this ride. My fellow rider is in his mid to late 50's and has a job that has got to be way more demanding than mine, but none of this keeps him from being an order of magnitude stronger than I am on the bike. I think he might have been checking his email while I chugged along to catch up to him on every climb (and there were a lot of climbs). For awhile whenever we weren't slogging up some frost-heave-decorated mountainlet in southern Vermont or screaming down some similarly treacherous descent, I rode alongside him so we could chat. But when we made the turn to head south for the final few miles and turned straight into the above headwind, I used my last good lungful of air to gasp, "Do you mind if I just grab your wheel?" And my AARP-card-carrying friend pulled my sorry a** back to town.

The good news is, I managed not to blow my nose onto him. Probably because he was never behind me.

This week I had a quick hill repeat workout on my plan. The day of the workout, my weather app was sporting a red exclamation point about 40 mph gusts of wind, and I thought seriously about ditching the workout. I had trouble walking across campus, the wind was so strong. But then I remembered that I want to suck less on the bike this year.

It was a beautiful day, and the hill I was riding on was oriented so I got more straight head- or tailwind than crosswind, which I prefer. (Of course the headwind occurred going up the hill, not down.) Here is a view from halfway down the hill, where you can see part of the Holyoke range in the distance if you look closely:

And here is a house whose paint job is either new this year or I've just never noticed it before:

In case this isn't obvious, I stopped to take these pictures; I was doing well to stay on the bike with both hands on the handlebars. My goal for the ride was not to hold on with a death grip, though, which is my tendency when it's windy. Or, if I'm being honest, just in general. I could move my arms afterwards, though, so I think I did OK with this.

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Bricks and Eagles

First and most important, my husband found this site. If you haven't seen it yet, it's a 24-hr live video stream from the nest of 2 bald eagles with 3 new chicks. It is mesmerizing, and we've had it running all day here. Apparently I was in the shower during the best part of the day, when both parents left and the chicks started beating the crap out of each other. There was pecking of eyes, and then one chick defecated in the face of another. Which made me feel a whole lot better about my own kids' incessant bickering, because we have not yet sunk to scatological attacks. (Did I just jinx myself?)

I did, however, get to see the part where the male (I think) returned to the nest after a long absence with. . . a huge stick. If there were subtitles, the mate would have been saying, "What the hell is that?" It was really unclear what the plan was for the big stick, and as far as I can see, it's still just lying there. Sort of like a really ugly recliner your partner brings home from a yard sale, I guess.

Today I did my first brick of the season where I actually biked outside. My plan called for an hour ride, HR not to go over Zone 3, so I cheated only a little and did about 1:15. I decided I wanted to do the big climb near my house, which locals know as "the S curves." My goal is to do this climb a lot this year, so I figured I might as well start now, and as long as I kept the HR Z3 on the way up, it seemed kosher. So up I went. And up some more. I like to count inflection points on the S part of the S curves, and by my count there are 12 of them. The dirty secret of the S curves is that there's plenty of uphill before you hit them, and plenty afterwards. I cut out a little early to do a loop back through Shutesbury (W. Pelham Rd for the locals), and I  got to enjoy my first long descent of the season as well, though tragically it was into a headwind. One of my favorite parts about this ride was that, since the leaves aren't out yet, you can see a lot of houses that are normally hidden in the woods. There are some beautiful, some quirky, and some downright funky abodes up there in the hilltowns. There's some kind of ashram that is painted in bright horizontal stripes of all colors, plus a house that my husband describes as "Kodak yellow." (He grew up in Rochester.)

The other nice thing about biking up in the hilltowns is that, even as the temps soared near 60 degrees today, they still have some serious snow up there in the woods. This is good because it makes me feel better about the persistence of our own little glacier:

Patrick took it upon himself last weekend to spread the snow around a bit, and this worked quite well--I predict this part of the glacier will be gone by the end of tomorrow. And yes, he's wearing his stormtrooper costume there. (Only apparently it's not a stormtrooper, but some soldier in one of the very confusing and not that interesting armies that populate the new episodes in the Star Wars franchise, which I refuse to follow because I find them excruciating.)

Eventually Charlotte tired of her supervisory role in this snow relocation program:

What is it about kids and non-ergonomic reading positions, anyway? Didn't we all do this kind of thing? And yet it makes my neck hurt just to look at her.

Right, back the to the brick: the run this time was my longest brick run yet, and what do you know--my legs definitely felt the big climb they had just done. But I plugged away, got my HR up to Z4 for the last two miles (which also happened to have a lot of uphills--I knew this ahead of time, but really, I figured it was just good for me), and staggered back inside to check on the eagles.

Which brings me to my main point: can someone explain to me why it's called a brick? I have assumed, ever since I started doing triathlon training, that it's called that because your legs feel like bricks when you get off the bike. But no one has ever verified this for me, and it's seriously bothering me. I came close to posting this question on Slowtwitch, but then I got hold of myself and refrained, so I'm hoping a real triathlete here can set me straight without humiliating me in the process, telling me my position needs to be more aero, or making me look at pictures of "triathlon hotties."

Sunday, April 3, 2011

First (real) ride of spring

Today was a beautiful day that almost makes one believe spring is here. Until one looks at the weather forecast for the week. So I'm not.

My coach organized a small group ride today, and although I still have a bit of a cough and sore throat, I made the executive decision to be finished with being sick, popped an Aleve to calm my throat, and joined the fun. We did 32 miles of a fairly mellow ride--definitely faster than I would have gone by myself, but the lady in charge was good about making sure we didn't drop anyone, so no one hammered for long. Although I have to say I have a bit of a problem with figuring out tempo, because a couple times I started to take a turn at the front, then realized I had dropped people without meaning to. I think I just overcompensate for thinking I'm slow, plus I can't really look backwards without totally losing my line, so I'll be cranking along and then finally manage to sneak a peek behind me on a curve, and lo and behold, I am, as my husband describes it, "being an a**hole." Note that this is only a problem for me on a mellow ride--when the riding gets more serious with these folks, I'm lucky to hang on. And I did spend well more than half the ride today coasting along on somebody's wheel, make no mistake.

Here is the rest of the group at the end of the ride:

Linda, in the middle, was very kind about the fact that apparently I blew my nose onto her. Maybe more than once. I need to work on my group riding etiquette for sure.

When I got home, Joker was enjoying the sunny spot on top of my stash of workout clothes.

This is the closest he gets to working out. And yes, I still keep my workout clothes in milk crates.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Very important cultural information

I just finished watching "Valentine's Day," the ensemble-cast romantic comedy that is months (years?) old, and I am not ashamed to say I loved it. As did my husband. In his words, "This may be the best rom com I've seen since "Sex, Lies and Videotape." No, I don't think that one's a rom com, either, but the man loves his Andie Macdowell.

So why did the critics hate on "Valentine's Day?" Cynics. And I won't spoil anything, but the best part was the outtake by Julia Roberts during the credits. Big. HUGE.

It was a big movie day for me today, because Patrick had a stomach bug so spent most of the day, post-puking, lying in the living room and watching TV. Here he is about an hour prior to (what I hope is) the last puking incident:

This afternoon he and I watched "Faith Rewarded," the NESN-produced version of the 2004 Red Sox season. I don't think I will ever get tired of watching the ALCS from that year. Especially the part where A-Rod tries to slap the ball out of Bronson Arroyo's hand. I get almost as emotional at the end of Game 7 as I did at the end of "Valentine's Day."

And speaking of romance, my husband rose to Ashton Kutcher-like heights* last night, because while Patrick was up puking half the night, I was sleeping downstairs in the guest room in an effort not to infect my husband with this heinous cold and/or keep him up all night with my coughing. He dealt with all the puking and never considered coming downstairs to wake me up for help. I slept in until 8 this morning, feeling much better when I woke up, only to find pukey-boy on the sofa when I wandered out. That, my friends, is love.

*The innuendo here is so obvious I'm just leaving it in, even though in reality it's just a reference to Ashton being the sweet guy at the center of the movie. But feel free to imagine me as Demi Moore.