Tag Archives: cycling

Coming Up For Air

Coming Up For Air

Random cat picture. I don’t talk about him in the post, but isn’t he handsome?

Rising to the surface briefly to report that I am not dead.  Yay!  By way of summary:
  1. I started actually training on the new job last week.  Hurrah!  I think once I master it, it will be good, but right now it’s terribly frustrating.  I’m slow and stumbling and I hate not being good at things.  But everyone on the new team is really nice (and young!  ZOMG, so young…), and there’s lots of room for me to develop once I get the basics down, so I just have to be gentle with myself for the next few months.
  2. The washing machine is fixed.  To the tune of $210 dollars.  Ouch.  But worth it.  The technician was worried about my water supply (it leaks a few drops an hour) and my hoses.  I can replace the hoses myself easily enough.  The water supply…well, that will keep for now.  But I realized that this washing machine is the one we bought when we moved into the house 18 years ago.  It’s done very well by us!
  3. Speaking of fixing things, I finished my bike repair class last night.  What a great class!  I can now change tires, replace brake and derailleur cables, and even disassemble and rebuild wheel hubs!  If you have a bike in the Delaware Valley, I highly recommend taking this class and/or checking out Bike Church at the Neighborhood Bike Works.  What a great resource!
  4. I broke my toe.  Yes, on the same foot.  I think it’s cursed.  Not much to do about this one, though, except wait it out.  Which means no running.  Considering the state of the roads, that isn’t as much of a hardship as it was this summer.
  5. I’ve been watching way too much Great British Bake Off.  This is a bad thing.  I’ve put on an additional 3 pounds.  There may be eclairs in the near future.  There will definitely be a blog post.
  6. The payment deadline for Hero’s trip is getting closer.  GAH!!!  In a fit of panic, I started a fundraising campaign on RallyUp to help raise money for those last payments.  If you’re one of the few people who I haven’t force-fed this campaign, please go and check it out, and donate if you can or just share it on social media if you can’t.  We’re about a third of the way to our goal with 6 weeks until the final payments.  In the meantime, she’s selling frozen pizzas and will be working the next few months on making and selling hoagies at school.  She’s had to give up art club for the foreseeable future to do it, but I think/hope this drives home that you need to sacrifice sometimes to get the things you want.  Growing up is hard, yo.
  7. We’re getting ready for a houseguest from Germany next week.  Morgan’s boyfriend is coming over so the two of them can go to a convention in NYC next weekend.  Not only will it be the first time we’ve met him, it will be the first time he and Morgan will meet in person.  I’m both nervous and excited for Morgan, and want to do what I can to help make a good impression on his behalf.  So this week we are cleaning the house within an inch of its life.  And trying not to think about what young men in love are thinking about.  Having your kids grow up is hard, yo.
  8. I have the beginnings of a new book poking at me.  Shh, we don’t want to scare it.
I think that’s it for now.  Updates as they arise!

Two Wheelin’

Two Wheelin’

I’m easing into bike culture, especially with my pretty new bike.  Xander’s a little deeper, as our only bike commuter.  He’s determined to ride even when there’s snow on the ground.  We’ll see how long that lasts, but in the meantime I’m doing everything I can to keep him encouraged.  That mostly means buying him stuff.  Rain gear, reflective bands, lights, gloves… Yeah, I can buy a lot of stuff.

So when the Philly Bike Expo came on my radar, I knew we had to go.

I was doubly looking forward to this because I don’t often get to do things with just Xander.  We’re still teasing out his interests, so more often than not anything I’m doing with him also involves at least one of his siblings.  But he’s a different kid on his own, and I don’t get to see that very often.

Like bad cyclists, we drove into the city.  We could have taken our bikes on the train, and the expo had valet bike parking, but I wasn’t brave enough.  I paid for my cowardice by getting soaked for parking.  I’m just not as familiar with the parking opporunities around the convention center.  Next time, I’llpark in the garage affiliated with Reading terminal and get validated parking for $4 with my mandatory apple cinnamon bread.  Gee darn.

I’d never been in the convention center.  That is a seriously impressive space.  The expo only took one of the halls, and even though there were a lot of vendors, it didn’t come close to filling the hall.  I was okay with that, because I thought it would be less overwhelming for Xander.  As we started going through the stalls, though, he seemed more the opposite.  He wasn’t interested in anything.  Granted the vendors were made up of a LOT of builders and not as many accessory merchants as I would have liked.  There were also 4 food trucks IN the hall.  That didn’t impress him, either.)  Manwhile I’m getting on every mailing list I come across in hopes of winning something (I didn’t) and otherwise just scoping out what’s there.  Got to check out a couple of helmet and some rearview mirrors, but there wasn’t as much safety gear as I’d hoped and no one had the handlebars I’d wanted to try.  But nothing was catching Xander’s interest.

Then we found the test area.

Remember how I said the hall was half full?  Well, that wasn’t entirely accidental.  One end of the hall was roped off and there were 2 dozen different types of bikes to try out.  We got yelled at initially for not having helmets, but the expo was smart and had a borrowing table available.  I left my ID in exchange for two helmets.

I was willing to try everything, but Xander was really focused on one thing: the recumbent trikes.  There were three of them, but they were really popular, so I made him try the others while we waited our turn.  I think he liked the fat bike, but he was too focused to be able to expand his view.  Finally we talked one of the kids out of the one he’d been hogging and Xander got his chance.


It was love at first ride.  I didn’t think I was ever going to get him out of it.  I managed to score one of the other ones.  It didn’t fit me well (damn my stubby legs), but man, that sucker was FAST.  And stable.  I almost skidded out a few times, but never came close to tipping over.  After a couple of laps, I passed it on to Xander when he gave his up while I went to try some of the others.  I liked the rear load cargo bikes but had a really hard time steering the front loaded ones.  I didn’t get a chance to try the folding bike (which is a truly amazing piece of engineering!), and they didn’t have any tandems out to try, which was a disappointment.  Granted all these bikes were way out of our price range, but just getting to try them was hugely informative.  The testing also sold me on a new (to me) brand of helmet, the Berns they were giving out for testing.  They’re a great combination of the racing helmets and round helmets.  I liked the style a lot, and they were very comfortable, to the point where I forgot I was wearing it.  They’re a bit expensive, but I think they’ll be worth it.

I left Xander in the test area to go do a second loop of the vendors, and then we went for lunch.  Xander decided on Reading Terminal because he really wanted a burger.  For him, this wasn’t a great choice.  Reading Terminal on a Saturday at lunchtime is MOBBED.  Thankfully we were focused, so we tunneled in in search of a burger and found Hunger Burger.  We got our burgers (him a double cheese, me a bacon cheese) and some fries, then got the heck outta Dodge, stopping only at the Amish bakery for the aforementioned apple cinnamon bread and a piece of red velvet cake to split.  The convention center had a patio with tables, so we camped out to eat and people watch.


Xander really liked his burger.  I told him he looked stoned.  He didn’t care.

We went back for one last loop and to actually buy a couple of things.  I got him a pair of winter riding gloves and a face mask, and he talked me into getting both of us cycling caps.

20151107_150000  20151107_150137

Now we fit in with our new tribe.  Although I’ve been wearing mine while running.

So it was a good trip.  Now that it’s over, I’m thinking about my riding more.  I’m keeping an eye on Craigslist for recumbent trikes, although we’ll have to get creative with hauling it around if we get it.  I do want to get a rack on my old bike to be a grocery hauler with the Wald baskets I’d gotten to check out at the show.  And I want to get us both signed up for repair classes.  I still want to get a repair center set up in our shed.

And we’re already looking forward to next year’s expo.



I’m still in the boot.


You can see the fine line of the break just above the fold crease. It looks like an elevation chart!

Two more weeks, which is discouraging, but should have been expected.  Every article I’ve read about broken ankles has said 6 weeks, and it never occurred to me that 4 weeks might just be to check on progress.  So I was incredibly disappointed, bordering on tears.  But everything’s lined up nice and straight and starting to fill in as it should.  Another two weeks, and then I get moved into an ankle brace for god knows how long.  As long as I can start driving again, I’ll be happy.  I actually kind of like riding to work with co-workers, but I want to be able to run errands, dammit!  I’m working on sucking it up, though, aside from a lot of whining, and am looking to get on with things.

To that end, I’m looking ahead to what’s next.  I won’t be able to run for months even once I’m out of the boot (sob!), but it looks like biking will be good right off the bat.  Since initially I got into running as a gateway to cycling (who knew I’d end up loving running!), it seems like this may be the universe’s way of telling me to get on with it.

I did get a few trips in this summer, and even managed a hilly 10 miles once.  But my bike is heavy and sluggish for that kind of riding.  She’s good for rough trails or grocery getting, but dragging her uphill is a chore, even in the lowest gear, and I can’t get her going very fast even ont he flats.  As the ennui of my ankle settled in, I went looking on Craigslist for a more suitable road bike.

I found Galadriel.


She’s a 1984 Lotus Challenger mixte.  But you wouldn’t know to look at her that she’s over 30 years old.  She looks like she just came off the line last year.  The paint is almost pristine, the welds perfect, and the guy selling her had replaced all the things that lack of use would degrade, like the tires and cables and bar wrap.  He’d even added a rear rack.  I did a lot of research on her, and even though he was asking a lot for her, it was a fair price.  She’s a collector’s bike, where even ones in crap condition go for $150-200, and she’s in gorgeous condition.  I would spend twice as much to get a similar bike new.  But I wasn’t in a hurry to get a bike.  This was only week 2 of the boot, after all.  But she kept eating at me.  I started researching her, and asked other, more experienced riders for their input.  Hell, I even dreamed about her, which is when she told me her name.  So I figured I needed to at least make an attempt at her.  I got in touch with the seller, and he responded right away agreeing to set up a test ride that weekend.  Nikki was great and came up to drive me over, even though she hadn’t driven anything in almost a year, let alone my big old van.  I took off the boot, put on a sneaker, and off we went.

She looked even better in person.  Then I got on her.  She was fast.  And smooth.  She shifted great, despite me having no clue how to use her lever shifters.  There was a fairly steep (for me) hill right next to the house, which I was able to fly up, despite babying my foot.  And she fit me perfectly.

I needed this bike.

I tried to talk him down, but he knew what he had, and I knew what he had, so I told him I’d have to think about it until pay day.  I was worried he’d sell it in the meantime, but if he did, well, that just meant I wasn’t meant to have her.

Monday Nikki sent me half the cost with a not.  “Buy the bike.”  I looked at the ad again.  And I got in touch with him.  The problem, of course, was that I couldn’t drive out to get her.  Fortunately he was willing to drop her off.  She was just as beautiful in my yard as she’d been in his.  I was not going to lock her on my front porch with the other bikes, though, so initially she was in the kitchen and now is living in my dining room where I can pet her whenever I want.

Now, there may be some adjustments made.  As I said, she has lever shifters, which I have never used, and they’re on the down tube instead of on the bars, so it takes a little more finesse to shift.  And she has drop handlebars, which again, never used.  So she’s going to take a little getting used to.  I am going to get professionally fit to her so everything’s the way it should be.  I think the handlebars need to be a little higher, as I feel like I’m tipping over if I hold the brakes.  Once that’s all set, I’ll give it three months to get used to.  If at that point it’s just not working, I’ll change out the bars for butterfly bars which will let me ride more upright and get thumb shifters installed on the bars.  I want to at least give the current set-up a try, though.

Not getting to start riding her this week was especially disappointing.  I’m making it up to myself by shopping for gear for her.  I’ve ordered a handlebar bag which has a map pocket and cell phone display pocket, and I got a repair kit with all the basics for on the road repairs.  I want a trunk bag and panniers, but those will keep, and as the season moves on, I’ll need decent lights.  Sophie, my old bike, will probably be my winter bike, as she can handle snowy roads better, so I won’t need heavier gear for Galadriel.  But what I really want for the new bike are these panniers.

The vendor on Etsy who sells them has taken them down, but I’m hoping they’ll go back up eventually.  They’re expensive, though, $150, but they hold a lot of stuff, and don’t they just look like something an elf queen should have?  And they’d be easy to move between the two bikes as needed, so they’d be flexible.  So I’ll watch to see if they go back up.  I’m not allowed to get them anyway until I can complete the long park trip I have planned.  It’s 30 miles round trip, and is the same route the local bike club rides, so once I can do that, hopefully I can start riding with them.  Meanwhile I’ve created an Amazon wishlist for all the other goodies I want.  I may make another one to build fantasy kit for bike camping.  There’s so much stuff to get, I could go a little nuts!

And I’m not the only cyclist in the house!  Xander has been amazing about riding his bike to school.  He can’t wait to get out the door in the morning, literally.  I’ve had to keep him in when he’s made a break for it a 6:15. As it’s staying dark later and later in the morning, we’ve been adapting.  He know has a quick release light for his handlebars, and I ordered another set so he’d have them front and back.  I also got him a pair of cycling gloves with skeleton hands on the back to keep him warm now that it’s finally cooled off.  There are a couple more goodies I want to get him, like spoke lights and a reflective harness, but there’s time for that.  He said he wants to keep doing it even after I start driving again, but we’ll see how long that holds once the snow flies.  I may drag him out with me on a couple of long weekend rides once I get moving again.  Who knows, maybe I’ll have a riding buddy!  Hero’s getting more attached to her bike, too, but she doesn’t want to make it her sport of choice, because then it’s work instead of fun.  This is a mindset I hear from a lot of my family, and it makes me a little crazy.  I mean, shouldn’t your work BE fun?  But she has to do what works for her, and as long as she gets some fitness in, I’m happy.  Of course, she still has to get through her push up test in gym, but that’s a whole other workout goal!

So.  Two more weeks.  (Again.)

Childhood fantasies

Childhood fantasies

When I was a kid, we lived in this town that was at the crossroads of two major train lines in Michigan, one going north-south and the other east-west.  My brother and I spent a lot of time on those tracks, despite all my parents’ ominous warnings.  We were kids.  Kids are stupid.  We had more squashed pennies and nickels than you’d care to imagine.  I practiced my balance walking on those rails.  We’d walk them for miles (well, at least two) before coming home.  We both said that one day we were going to follow them the whole way, see where they went.

Of course, when you’re a kid, you make these crazy plans.  But then you get older, and you start to realize that they aren’t practical, aren’t safe.  You don’t have the time, or the money, or the commitment.  There are a million reasons, not even excuses.  Kids’ brains are huge and fearless.  As adults, we get more cautious.

Which sucks.

I’ve been feeling a hint of that old fantasy, though, as I’ve started cycling.  I find myself wanting a set of panniers prepacked with a backpacking tent and stove and whatever other supplies I’d need to decide on a Wednesday, “I think I’m going to take a bike trip this weekend” and just GO.  No planning beyond what I could do in 36 hours, no destination, just a long ride out and back or around.  There’s an old abandoned road bed from the original Pennsylvania turnpike, complete with tunnels, out in central PA, but we’d have to drive to get there.  (We may do it, though.)  French Creek State Park is 36 miles away.  That’s a day trip one way, if I could haul my camping gear or get someone to pick me up.  Green Lane is 15.  Could I actually get out there and back?  Probably not.  Yet.

(I actually stopped writing this to map out a couple of routes for that.  I could do it, with reasonable breaks.  Once I get at least a rear trunk rack and bag, I’m going to do it!)

And see, there it is.  When did we stop just GOING?  Okay, yes, I probably need a little more gear (like a water bottle cage) and some maintenance (my gears need to shift properly), but honestly, what’s the point of just looping?  I want to go someplace.  So I bloody well will!  And the kids can come if they want, but they don’t have to, I’m not going to make them.  I’ll pack me a nice lunch, ride out early, have a picnic and a nap, then ride back.  I can ride 10 miles in under an hour now.  Fifteen is nothing!  And getting back is about the same!

And now the adult in my brain is panicking…

Shut up, brain.  I’m going to go add micro-camping gear to my Amazon wishlists.

Run Report

Run Report

More than just running, though!

I made it through the week 8 redo on my 5k training.  Hero was really struggling with her week 6 training, so she redid that week and I went out with her a couple of times to do it and then tacked on an extra 20 minute run, which seemed to do the trick.  Rather than redoing the day 2 training like I’d planned, at the end of the week I went straight to the 5k run.  I very carefully mapped out a new route, got the distance perfect, and went out and DID IT.  I only walked once for about 45 seconds and had one long road crossing, but I think that pretty much counts as mission accomplished.  And even with those pauses, I still had an almost perfectly steady 11:30 minute/mile pace.  So I’m really happy with that!  That was last Monday, June 8th (recorded here for posterity!)

I lasted exactly one run before I crumpled and started running the full Zombies Run! app.

Hero’s doing better.  She was struggling with a head cold and female issues, so she wisely decided to redo week 6, and did it slowly.  By the end, she was running most of all her free runs.  She started Week 7, but on the second day got a bad pain in her hip and had to stop.  I think she’s just not stretching enough, so I walked her through some, including the IT band stretch I just learned and which has saved my life, and made sure she was holding them long enough.  She’s going to give it another stab today or tomorrow.

Since I finished the 5k training, my runs haven’t gone well.  To be fair, the heat and humidity here has been ungodly, and I was still running in the evening.  But now that the kids are out of school and I don’t have to get them moving in the morning, I can go out and run then instead.  Did that for the first time on Tuesday, and it wasn’t bad.  I only ended up walking 3 minutes or so out of 48, AND I found out that the route I’ve been doing wasn’t 3.2 miles, but 4.1.  And my pace is still consistent at 11:30, so in reality, I’m doing a lot better than I thought I was!  I’ve got this new route tweaked to where I like it, so I think that will be my regular run, in either direction, and then I’ll work on building distance/time from that.  And hey, I only have to add 12 minutes instead of 25 like I’d expected!

I finally got signed up for my races.  I’ll be doing the Tex-Mex 5k next Wednesday evening.  I’ve got it mapped out, and it looks pretty doable.  The worst of the hills are in the first half of the route, so I can get them out of the way no problem.  I’m tempted to go try running it in advance, but no, I’ll just keep on keeping on.  I also signed up for a virtual run/walk, the Sherlock Run.  I’ll admit, I’m doing it mostly for the medal (because it’s awesome!)

Sherlock run medal

But it also raises money for rescue dogs, which is always a good thing.  I signed up for the 22.1 mile challenge, which fortunately you don’t have to do all at once.  I should finish earning it with the Tex-Mex run, so two medals for the work of one!!  (Although I don’t think I get a medal for Tex-Mex. Oh well.)

I haven’t given up on the cycling, either.  I’m not getting much riding in this week because of getting ready for the trip.  I’m not comfortable riding early or late, as I don’t have my lights rigged up yet.  But once we get back, next week I’ll get back to alternate days with the running.  I’m already improving.  In exploring what I thought would be a 7 mile route, I got lost and ended up going 10, and aside from one monstrous hill, I didn’t have too much trouble.  I do need to get the bike looked at, as the front derailleur isn’t shifting to the lowest gear.  Hopefully that’s a quick and easy fix, though.  Xander’s decided to be my riding buddy for his summer activity.  So we have to get his bike in shape (the weld blew on his front gears) and make sure he knows the rules of riding on the road.  Then we’ll start doing distances and see how he does.  I’m not sure if we’ll actually ride together together, as he likes to go pretty fast, but that’s good.  Once we know what he can do, maybe we’ll see about hooking him up with a local ride club.

I know all this fitness stuff has really taken hold, though.  It’s become so automatic that when I get off my routine, I get twitchy.  Last night, I kept feeling like I was forgetting to do something, even though I’d already run for the day.  Today is worse, as it’s a rest day and I can’t run (I refuse to tempt injury.  I’m at risk enough as it is!).  I’m so looking forward to tomorrow morning, it’s not even funny.  Me, looking forward to running.  IN THE MORNING.  That’s just…deeply wrong somehow.

Doesn’t stop me from doing it, though.


Wheels up!

Wheels up!

Sunday was a wheels day.

I had all my housework done, so I planned to putter.  I spent most of the afternoon watching Harry Potter and finishing the singles for a new yarn to get it off my bobbins before Tour de Fleece starts next month.  But the morning was spent with some different wheels.


This is Charlotte.  She is the base of what I hope will become my cycling lifestyle.  She’s a hybrid bike, good for both urban commuting and distance cycling.  Neither of which I do at the moment, but I want to.  I know I talk a lot about running, but that’s not what I really want to be doing.  I want to be a cyclist.  Not for speed, but for distance.  I love the idea of cycling holidays, of hopping on my bike to run to the grocery store, of riding to work.  But other issues aside, I can’t manage even a few miles without getting exhausted.  Or I couldn’t.  But if I can master a 5k, I can build up my riding endurance as well.

But I have to start somewhere, and Sunday was about finding out where I was starting from.  I mapped out a couple of routes to the grocery store and was surprised to find out that what had seemed like an overwhelming distance was really just under 3 miles each way.  If I could run that far, I certainly could ride it.  So Sunday morning, I got Charlotte out of the basement, dusted her off, pumped up the tires and set out to see if I could do it.

Sunday morning seemed like the best time to make the attempt, as the traffic would be at its lowest.  The problem with living in the suburbs is that there is ALWAYS traffic.  We don’t really have back roads per se.  But some roads are worse than others.  I won’t go on Cowpath, because it’s always busy and overwhelming.  But going the back way, I only have to do half a mile on Orvilla Rd., another busy road with narrow shoulders.  That half mile seems a lot less intimidating somehow.  We’ll see how it goes when I have to deal with actual traffic, but this trip was just about distance.

I got off to a pretty good start.  Route 1 was fairly flat at the beginning, so I had good speed and was fairly comfortable taking the lane when I needed to.  The first hills were a little intimidating.  I’d grown up on single speed bikes, so gears are not intuitive for me.  But I’ve been asking a lot of people a lot of questions recently, so I at least knew technically what I was supposed to do.  It didn’t make them any easier, but at least I didn’t have to get off and walk!  Made it to Orvilla and was pleased to find there’s just enough shoulder to feel relatively safe up to the store.  Made it there in 15 minutes, which surprised and pleased me.  Honestly, most evenings I can’t drive there that fast, the traffic is so bad.  So riding there isn’t an unreasonable option.  But I was pretty out of breath.  I rested there for a couple of minutes, then turned around to take Route 2 home.

I don’t think Route 2 was worse.  A little longer on Orvilla, but only a block, and the left turn is at a light, so that helps.  But OMG the hills.  Okay, yes, there were only probably two that actually qualify as hills.  The rest were…slopes.  But crikey!  And the last one was towards the end of the ride, when I’m already out of breath.  I almost ran out of gears.  But only almost.  And I made it home in about the same 15 minutes, so either route is viable.

So there.  I’m not ready for grocery fetching on the bike yet.  Especially since I don’t have the right gear.  I have fenders, a rear rack and baskets in my Amazon wishlist for when I have more money, but I’m adding regular riding into my exercise routine.  The nights I’m not running, I will go out for a half hourish ride, around 6-7 miles, and try to do a longer one on the weekend.  15-20 miles a week this month.  Next month I’ll try to double that.  It won’t come right away, but it will come.  By the end of the summer, I would like to a) be able to ride the Schuykill River Trail into Philly and 2) be able to ride the 202 trail into Doylestown.  The second is harder than the first, even though the distance is shorter, because it is seriously hilly, and not just slope-y but actual HILLS. But just having a goal is a first step.  And I’ve learned that I can actually achieve these things.  I won’t be ready for the Endless Mountain 1240k next year, but I’ll be closer to it than I am now. If I can ride a century (100 miles) by next year, I’ll be a happy cyclist.