Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Season Of Change And Gratitude

As the years stack up, and boy are they stacking up, there is one thing that I don't take for granted, and that's my health and overall wellness. Too often, we overlook this and are not so gently  reminded when someone we know is diagnosed suddenly with some irreversible disease or disorder that can change a  life forever. Everything comes to a screeching halt and our daily routines that can seem mundane have an entirely different meaning.
  Invincibility, I've learned weakens with age and wisdom and humility replaces it. Embrace it ( your life, your wellness, the fact you can make choices and be thankful- I try very hard to be mindful of this. Sounds simplistic and relatively easy to do, but I often fail at the task.

This year has been a good one for me. A rocky start into  January with little to no exercise, no motivation to do so for that matter  sprinkled with some travel to Belgium and Colorado,  add in the holidays, toss in a brutally cold winter and one has the perfect recipe/excuse to become sloth-like.  With no real athletic goals in place for 2014, I got lazy and my reward was a fair amount of extra poundage on my 5'10" frame.
Suddenly I found myself on a scale at a doctor's visit to the tune of  17 pounds over my normal weight. With an ACL reconstruction excuse in 2011-2012, extra poundage was acceptable. This year? Notsomuch... I was force fed Belgian beer and chocolate?

As soon as I laid out some sort of plan for spring and summer and what I wanted to do, It was easy to jump in feet first freshly motivated to begin the long process of becoming less sloth-like. Or so I thought.

By June 15th, I managed to get myself to 8 pounds lighter and started a season of short course triathlon racing with a touch of road racing. For time sake and keeping your eyes from glazing over,  I've just highlighted  my run times to show how they improved with training consistency, a few diet changes and overall painfully slow but progressive fitness gains. The process yielded some satisfactory results in the local albeit small, (not super competitive) but most importantly FUN New England region of racing.

Let's get this geriatric party started!
June 21st
Mashpee Super Swim 3 miler (wet suit division)  2nd AG/ 7th Gender 1:18:51/ 1:37 pace/

The follow day: Mashpee Hero Triathlon  (Sprint)
swim/0.3 bike/13/run 3.2  4th AG/15 Gender  I accidentally followed the OLY distance course instead of the 3.2 run course for the Sprint and had to turn around.  Doh!   Run time: 36:16  for the "5K" A  great day to remind my body how to handle running a very uncomfortable pace that made me want to lay down on the side of the road in a little ball. (whimper)

Next up: Massachusetts State OLY distance Triathlon July 13th  5th AG/
(2:26 :09) 10k 53:22   (8:36) pace.   Still feeling sluggish and  holding a weight of 138.2, A 10k felt like a 1/2 marathon. Slog Slog, Slog...

 July 20th- East End 5 Mile Road Race  It took me until July to feel like I was running and not shuffling. 5 miles-  40:47 (8:10) pace  Yay! Could there be hope for me after all?

I found another OLY distance Triathlon race to sign up for in hopes the last 3 sprint distance races
 ( my A races)  would feel a bit breezier?

 August 3rd Lowell OLY distance Triathlon ( 2:20:05)  1st AG/2nd Gender  Run 10k:50:01 (8:20) pace Where were all the fast girls? I won a 3 pound bag of Heed electrolyte mix! :-)  It was expired!  :-(

August 23rd  Cranberry Sprint Triathlon (1:24:54) 1st AG/gender  5k- 24:32 (7:54) pace

 Sept. 6th Pumpkinman Sprint Triathlon  (1:16:04)  1st AG  Run  3 mile -23:36 (7:36) pace

 Wallis Sands Sprint Triathlon (1;14:26)  Run 23:00  5k (7:11) pace

I ended the triathlon season at my  race weight, injury free and goals attained.  It feels strange to be in run shape this time of the year, but  I gave up a season of cyclocross,( a sport I had no idea what I was doing no matter how hard I trained) to stick with and build on the run foundation I worked long and hard on for months.
Next up: My first 1/2 marathon this weekend  in over 4 years!!! Perhaps I should have looked at the course profile BEFORE signing up??  Silly girl.....

Thanks for reading! 

Friday, September 5, 2014

What I Did On My Summer Vacation In Less Than 30 Seconds


I rode from Bedford MA to Okemo Mt VT

                                          I swam the Mashpee MA 3 mile Super swim

                                          and the next day I did the Mashpee Hero Triathlon                      

I sold all of my Nikon gear and switched to Canon

I took pictures

I swam a shark free 4 miles with some friends in Marblehead MA

I raced with my Team Psycho teamies

I rode with the West Concord Monsters In The Basement crew to whip myself
into cycling shape

I ran on the track and didn't snap or injure anything.

I took pictures of my wacky tuxedo cat, Ridley

I scored some age group wins

I swam from Indian Neck Beach to Great Island and back in Wellfleet MA avoiding becoming another (shark) snack casualty 

And I gave up Diet Coke 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Pace Line Etiquette with Richard Fries

With the Boston  b2vt  days away, I thought it was a perfect time to review (cycling) pace line etiquette.
Please join me with my guest blogger who knows the ins and outs of proper pace line tactics/etiquette and basically how not to be a douche out there. Listen up, cause Richard  (see his bio HERE ) knows what he's talkin' about and a review for even the veteran riders ain't a bad idea.

Richard- for many former b2b rides, plants himself up front of the riders and (tries) to explain to each group
of cyclists ready to start the 148 trek to VT, not only pace line etiquette, but riding safely and respectfully.
Unfortually he won't be there (sniff) this weekend to send us off and  keep the partay going once we reach
Okemo. We will miss you Richard!

Group Riding 201
What Your Ride Can Learn from the Pros

By Richard Fries

Most beginner cyclists get a lot of advice on getting ready for a big ride as individual riders.  Pages and pages are written about equipment, clothing, nutrition and training. But on the day of the big ride, we too often encounter riders who have no experience in a pack of six, 60, 600 or perhaps 6,000 cyclists.

Curiously, we'll often find riders with $5,000 worth of hardware, all the right gear, and no idea on how to ride in a group. And we find way too many folks are coming right from the spin gym on to the road with zero cycling skills.  

Perhaps this can help.

Cycling is a far more dynamic and thrilling experience in a group that rides well. And cycling is one of the few activities in which a stronger, experienced participant can actively help a weaker novice. Drafting is what separates cycling from nearly every other endurance sport. The closer one can ride with another rider, the faster, the more durable, and more efficient one can become. But getting closer means risking contact with another rider. Mastering that skill is key. 

The only way to master that skill is to ride in groups often. And better yet is to ride with smooth, experienced cyclists.

But typically beginners are spat out the back of a group ride on the first hill of their first training ride, never to return. Conversely, more experienced riders are often frustrated having to constantly soft pedal and wait for the beginner at every turn.

Group riding "101" is pretty basic. "Don't overlap wheels.....Ride single file...." And that's where it ends.

And the result is the same. Well, actually it's worse. Group rides typically break down with stronger riders going off the front, weaker riders going off the back, and in the melee far too many riders in the middle of the road, motorists getting angry, and pedestrians getting annoyed. Large group rides too often devolve into a wide variety of riders operating in a wider variety of lanes at an even wider variety of speeds.

Study the photo to the right. This is from RAGBRAI, a wonderful annual event with 10,000 novice riders. Note that the organizers officially discourage drafting and pace line riding. Note too, how riders have fanned all across the road. Figuring how to pass or be passed is difficult. Any sense of travel lane, fast lane, slow lane or passing lane has disintegrated. As a result WAY too many riders end up on the left side of the road going headlong towards oncoming vehicle traffic.

But there is a method to run a group ride that benefits everybody, keeps the group mostly together, and improves every riders' skills and fitness. After 35 years of cycling, including a stint at the European pro level, I thought I had it down. But recently I've learned from cyclo-cross superstar and veteran road pro Tim Johnson how to really run a group ride.

Let's call it "Group Riding 201".

In short, group rides could be conducted in the same manner used by pro teams in training camps.

That statement may seem daunting.


Most riders are surprised when they discover how safely and slowly pros ride during those training camps. Individual pros will work on their fitness and speed alone, in structured environments, or during races. Big group rides are not where they work on high-end fitness. When riding in team camps, they typically are seen rolling along at a talking pace for long distances...OK, really long distances. But for a few hours, any riders with decent road bikes, proper shoes, pedals and some basic experience can master this technique.

In this format, every rider gets the training they desire. And once the group gets going in a smooth fashion, every rider will be delighted by the speed they achieve and maintain. And this way of riding enables groups to ride safely for hours and hours at a comfortable pace without aggravating the community.

The three priorities on a group ride are:

1)    Safety. We want every rider to feel and be as safe as possible on the ride. Riders are safer in a tight group that moves consistently and predictably. When riders are all over the road at different speeds is when accidents happen. (And motorists get frustrated, and weaker riders get dropped.)
2)    Courtesy. We want every user of the road - motorists, runners, pedestrians, dog walkers, and other cyclists -  to have access to the road at all times and feel comfortable around our group. We need to follow the rules of the road. And no matter how aggravating, impatient, sloven, or vicious a motorist can become, we need to be the nice guys. Remember that If you cannot say anything nice, then don't say anything at all.
3)    Consideration. We want every rider to be considerate of each and every rider in the group, regardless of their fitness, strength or experience. There is no attacking or sprinting. All turning, stopping and starting should be done in a deliberate and calm fashion.  The front must always, always, always think about the riders in the back.

 So let's get started. Here are 10 methods that pros use to run a good group ride:

1)    Have a boss. A group ride needs to have somebody who is in charge, often known as the Patron. And everybody on the ride needs to buy into this. That boss needs to be one of the stronger riders, capable of going from the back to the front and back again at will. It helps if they are popular, positive, and respected. The boss needs to be willing to keep the group literally in line. Finding a good patron is the most important - and difficult - element of this plan.
2)    Ride 2x2. It is legal to ride two abreast in most states. The entire group should do so in rows of two. And this means side-by-side, without "half-wheeling" your partner to your side.  Riders should ride close enough to put one arm around the shoulder of the person next to them. This creates a larger draft for the weaker riders and makes it easier for automobiles to pass the group. When it is clear, the riders at the front can pull off to allow a new set of leaders to pull. During this year's Ride on Chicago, with about 30 riders in the group, a new tactic developed to do a slow-motion rotating pace line. This meant every rider took a two-minute pull, moved over a lane, took another two minutes, and then drifted back. This keeps the group consistently in a tight, two-column formation. But this requires a balance of ability and speed in the group. In a larger group everybody gets a share of the workload and a large share of rest.
3)    Stay 2x2. The group should remain in formation at all times on roads. This means when you're at a stop light, stay 2x2 and to the right edge of a single lane. Don't swarm all over the intersection. And when you make a left turn, the entire group goes to the left of the lane, remaining 2x2 all the way through the left turn. On bike lanes, bike paths and tight roadways where it's extremely narrow and congested the group should switch to single file. Either the boss or the riders on the front should determine when to do so with a verbal notice and raising a single finger.
4)    Keep Right and Tight. Too often big groups of riders take over the entire road. The leaders should set the line to the far right and leave it there. Riders with decades of experience racing (this writer included) can develop a bad habit of drifting left, an understandable impulse. We know that a good group rider learns to use the wind instead of the brakes when overlapping the rider ahead to avoid jerky braking in the group. But too often they drift to the left, pushing the entire group out. A key skill is to resist the urge to go out left and instead correct to the right, thereby keeping the group tight to the right.
5)    Pull longer, not harder. The riders at the front have a huge responsibility. They are the eyes of the group. The stronger riders looking to go hard should take pulls at the front that are longer, not faster. This provides the draft for the weaker riders who may never hit the wind the entire ride. Staying on the front at a steady pace enables the novice riders to get comfortable with the draft. And those on the front run their heart rates as much as 50 beats per minute higher than those riders behind. Note that while this is drafting, it is not a rotating pace line. People stay in their positions for upwards of 10 minutes or more.
6)    Go easy when it's hard; hard when it's easy. This is the secret sauce! To lessen the "accordion effect" of the group, which creates the most dangerous situations when the field compresses and the most frustrating situations when it spits riders off the back when the field stretches apart, the leaders need to respect the entire group.  For example, when the group is climbing, coming out of a turn, or starting from a standstill leaders should ride softly on the front. This allows weaker riders to stay with the group without frantically - and dangerously - riding to do so. Conversely, when rolling downhill, the leaders need to speed up to keep the group from bunching up. This seems easy, but it requires a lot of practice and patience. If done properly, one of the hardest things to do is to lead the group downhill as that requires enormous effort. The leaders need to listen: too hard and the group stops talking; too easy and the clicking of freewheeling gears will be heard.
7)    Off the road means off the road. When the group stops for any type of a break every rider needs to get entirely off the road. This is a basic courtesy to other users of the roadway and a major safety issue. Surprisingly, this is often the hardest thing to enforce with novices.
8)     Faster riders move back. The stronger riders - those key lieutenants to the boss - should finish their pulls at the front and then move to the back of the group to assist the weaker riders. This is also called riding "sweep." They may need to usher a gapped rider back to the group, push a rider up a hill, or advance to the front to inform the leaders of the need to change speed. This requires a lot of fitness and patience. Another term for these guys is "the welders". On a flat course, these guys may not need to go all the way back. But on a rolling, hilly route, there is a lot of work to do in the back.  These guys have to do intervals to properly and constantly "weld" the group back together. Trust me, the sweeps get some hard training in doing this. And as they do this they will filter back up to the front and take pulls.
9)    Slower riders move up.This is the hardest thing to teach. But the weaker riders have a responsibility to do their best to stay with the group. The smoothest ride is near the front, where the accordion effect is mitigated dramatically. Having those riders in the middle of the group also gives the leaders some indication of whether to increase or decrease speed. And those weaker riders can also drift back during tough climbs, a skill known as "sag climbing". But it also positions them in front of the sweep riders so they get the support needed to stay in the group. When a weaker rider receives help from the group they dedicate themselves to sticking with the group.  This really builds skills and confidence.
10)  Communicate everything. A novice rider may be intimidated by the tight formation, especially given the appearance of potholes, glass, grates, utility covers,  railroad tracks, curbs, speed bumps, rocks, gravel or other debris on the road. The key is to have the leaders point out each and every potential hazard with as much notice as possible and smoothly steering well clear of such items. Again, the guys on the front have a huge responsibility. And the warning should be telegraphed down the entire line by other riders in the formation. Likewise, information from the back can be sent to the front regarding the status of the group.

What will amaze people is how quickly novice cyclists - when paired with experienced group riders - dramatically improve their skills using this method. Within three rides, the impatient faster riders will be pedaling at close to the speeds they initially wished to ride; the nervous beginners will become comfortable around wheels and elbows and shoulders; everybody gets the training they desire; and the entire group will be compatible and safe.

What truly engages beginners is how enjoyable this style of riding can be. Riders are not continually under stress and in fear as riders strafe them from all sides. They ride side by side, chatting comfortably, and spinning away the miles.

Upon reading this, several so-called "experts" may scoff at such advice. I constantly hear,"That might work for experienced racers but not with beginners," is the common retort I hear from frustrated ride leaders.

Bad teachers blame their students.

Tim Johnson's Ride on Washington schooled all 20 of its riders on these techniques.

In 2012 the group rode 538 miles through the Northeast Corridor - we're talking crowded urban and suburban landscapes choked with all sorts of traffic - and NEVER heard a car horn blare in anger from behind.

On the fifth day of the ride, however, they were met by 130 riders ranging from novices to beginners.  The group included a number of grandmothers, an eight-year-old boy, a father with a two-year-old in a child seat, a fixed-gear rider, a 67-year-old man, a mountain bike or two, and even a unicyclist. Let me state that again, a UNICYCLIST.  The same rules were employed with the same efficiency. Within 30 minutes the group started to gel.

And was that entirely on a bucolic road with no interference from cars or traffic?  No. After a baptism on the photographed bike path (above), the group rode with those same rules right into downtown Washington DC during a busy Tuesday afternoon. 

And the result? See below.

That is 150 people, 2x2, on a downtown DC bike lane leaving more than enough room for oncoming cyclists and they are stopped at a red light. On the right is Tim Johnson. On the left is the navigator and Firefly Bicycles co-founder Kevin Wolfson.

Every rider is safe. 

Motorists are not angry.

Pedestrians are not confused.

Every rider is happy.

As beginners gain confidence riding with smooth riders, they will quickly improve their skills. As their skills improve their fitness improves. But more importantly, all of these riders will make an impact on every other group ride they join.

Teaching these skills to a small group of ride leaders can make massive group rides safer and more fun for everybody involved.

And then your group can ride for hours and hours .... 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Bike Commuting 101 Trigirlpink style!

I don't consider myself a true bike commuter because I don't do it everyday, year round, rain or shine.  I'm a snowbird commuter. I come out when the days are long and the sun is shining.   I have however, been doing my snowbird commuting for 6-7 years now and I've learned a few tricks from the hardcore cycling commuters along with developing some of my own.

My goal when commuting by bike is to get to my destination without hearing one car/truck horn directed at me. I try very hard to be the *well behaved cyclist*  with hopes of  trying  to change the attitude of even just one non cycling driver. I'm hoping  a driver notices the respect I'm showing for them while  concurrently abiding by the given rules both of us should be complying with.

Here are a few tricks, ideas and habits I follow to make bike commuting less stressful and more enjoyable.

1. If I leave 15 minutes earlier than I actually need to, I do  several  things that benefit me:  I anticipate flatting or having some mechanical issue  to contend with ( my buffer/safety net ). That 15 minutes can make a  huge difference volume wise of vehicular traffic on the roads too and I'm less likely to feel  rushed  with  the temptation of  rolling thru a stop sign or two and not paying attention in traffic with  my focus on rushing to get where I need to go . Give yourself time.

2. This is for the girls (sorry boys) but I SWEAR, by this:  Wearing a bit of pink, and not tucking my hair out of sight under my helmet gives me a bit of  an advantage with angry butt crack flaunting plumbers ( not you Duffy) and sanitation truck drivers. They appear to be less aggressive to the biker girl toting a pink messenger bag. And when the temps allow for it, the skort  is essential to complete the look.   Think  LEGS! LEGS!  LEGGGGGGS!    I'm convinced it simmers the car load of angry cigarette smoking  Ana's Taqueria  kitchen worker right down.  Work it girls

3.I love this blinky. It easily comes off your helmet if you don't have a dedicated commuter helmet and it swivels so it's always facing back and blinking. A better sight line for drivers coming from behind instead of it being behind your saddle me thinks.  I have it blinking whether it's sunny or not.  See and be seen.

I don't leave my house without a minimally but smartly stocked bag.

A. Form fitting non latex gloves with excellent tactile sensitively. Confession:  I've pilfered them from work. Look, I work in a dental office. If I flat or have some issue that my hands are likely
to become black and greasy (ick)  I don't want to mess up my clothing, gloves, my bar tape and most importantly my hands and then have to deal with it after I've gotten to work.  My patients don't give a crap I dropped my chain 4 times and flatted twice  and that's why I have grease under my fingernails as I walk them back to a treatment room.  No. no and NO!

B. A mini survival kit:  Band aids, a contact lens, eye drops, tissues and lip balm with sunscreen and emergency snacks.

 C. Small copies of the Massachusetts Rules of the Road For Drivers.   I'll be the first to admit, I will want to come at you with an ax shouting  "OFF WITH YOUR HEAD!"  if you cut me off taking a right hand turn with no blinker to pull into Dunkin Donuts impulsively  because you've decided at the last minute, you need that jelly donut and latte even though you JUST saw me next to you on the road seconds before your donut right hook.
If you almost sideswipe me because you are an inconsiderate dickwad that can't wait 10 seconds for a small gap so you can move over to the left(yellow lane line) and you haven't a clue that  IT'S THE LAW  that you are required to give cyclists a safe buffer zone.  ( Waiting and hoping the 3 feet rule makes it here to MA)

If there is some type of altercation along with complete stopped time during this altercation (rare),  screaming and looking like the *bad cyclist* to everyone  around watching is just useless and wasted energy that I need to bank to get up the hills after said altercation.  I simply hold my tongue ( sooooo difficult because yes.. it's true, I'm a bitch on wheels if provoked) and pass the nice little copy to the driver so they can refresh their rules of the road.
Can you argue over  a rule that is clearly stated in the MASS rule books?  Clearly some will continue to rage  pumping their fist at you but they will soon learn they too can be at fault and will hopefully retain the information.

D. My cell phone tucked into my SoulRun phone case that I can type right thru the clear plastic window along with with my debit card in the pocket provided on the back. I love this thing. It's durable. It keeps my phone dry and well... it's pink.

I don't do the ICE thing with my phone. Instead, I wear my Road ID that has pertinent  information needed in case of an emergency.  My full name the year of my birth on the same line  An emergency contact. No Allergies, and showing that I have insurance, BS/BS of MA at the bottom.

E.My tool kit contains:  2 tubes, a mini pump (back up if the C02 cartridges malfunction) a mini tool, 2 CO2 cartridge with a small threaded inflator, and tire levers (3)  and $10 in cash.

F. My Castelli Sottile rain jacket that folds up super tight and small.

While riding:

If I'm on a narrow street and can't move away from parked cars that could fling a door open in my path, I look in each and every driver side mirror. If I see a face, I'm on high alert.  The goal: Keep the collarbone intact.

I never roll thru a red light EVEN IF no other cars are coming from  across the intersection.  It's tempting but I'm trying to make a statement to drivers that I am to follow the rules of the road just as a motor vehicle. Please do this. So what you have to sit at a light. Keep your pants on. Grab a drink, adjust your messenger bag, take a breather. Everyone is in such a hurry. Don't be that person. CHILL

When someone lets me in/ out/ thru with a wave I give the wave back and or a thumbs up with a smile. When other cyclists do this when I'm driving, it's appreciated. A little bit of courtesy goes a long long way.   Be that person. 

Ok, this one is so very hard for me but I try try try and not give the finger to the driver that just tried to kill me while he speeds off after almost brushing me with his passenger side mirror and you should too. Be the one showing self control. As good as it feels to flip them off, all you are  essentially doing is cementing the stigma that all  cyclists are evil and must be sent a clear message that we shouldn't be on the road.  Think of  Penny singing  Soft Kitty Warm Kitty Little ball of Fur . breath,and..... Let. It. Go.

Ride safe, Drive safe, Be the driver and or rider you would want on the road with you.
It's simple yet sadly, so complex too.

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Quest For The Polka Dot Jersey

Confession:  A climber I am not.

desperately looking for the last switchback      
It's a TGP factoid. My Limiter. The weak link.  Nevertheless, this hasn't discouraged me one bit from trying to be a better one in the 15 years I've been cycling.  When the topic comes up in conversation I often hear: " just spin up the hill in an easy gear"  Ha! If it were just that simple.   You see,  I don't have an "easiest" gear when I climb. I don't care what gear ratio you offer up,  It's simply this: One gear Sally all the way up on the inside of that  cassette yet still looking for one more cog. Riders are usually passing me sprightly spinning and in control chit chatting with someone next to them while  I'm over on the right, head down, gasping while burning the always seemingly (too few) matches I've been hoarding.

This is not to say that when I am  fit,  I'm certainly more in control but only in the sense that I can recover quickly and can take the quad chewing/match burning for much longer.

It is what it is yet it has never influenced my decision of a given training ride or even a race selection for that matter.  In fact, I head for the hills every chance I can get always reminding myself that consistently yields results if ever so minimal.
 My first long distance triathlon was Long Course Worlds in Nice France. Let's just say there was a bit of climbing. Hills?  Mountains.  It was a treeless moonscape at the top/turnaround.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into and at best, I was ill prepared for how technical the course presented. ( I didn't get the memo) I was just super excited to travel to France representing USAT as an age grouper.

  When I chose my first ironman, it was  solely based on ease of travel to the venue with no thought it how the course suited me based on my abilities. Ironman Lake Placid is far from flat and if you don't  reel it in on the first loop of the 56 miles you pay dearly on the second loop with a 26.2 run with it's own share of hills tossed at you.  (I got the memo but I didn't read the memo)

Let's fast forward. This weekend I'm doing the Battenkill Gran Fondo. I didn't even know what Battenkill was until last year. Clearly I'm not racing( I got the memo) and the sole purpose is for it to be a fun day on a beautiful course with some new cycling friends who talked me into it. No doubt my quads will be chewed up after sixty something miles on a  a mix of gravel and paved road surfaces featuring some climbing I'm too scared to go look at.  (what you don't know, won't hurt you-ignore the memo technique)

I followed the same pattern a few weekends ago at the Overland Adventure Maple Ride in VT. Silly me... Focusing on the sugar house stops planned during the ride with treats waiting for us was WAY more important than glancing at the elevation and grade of the some of the climbs beforehand.  ooof..... The relentless climbs combined with some very chilly temps and funky road conditions left me trashed and wondering what was I thinking after the mere 35 mile "adventure"

All fun and games until we started climbing 1000 ft 5 minutes into the ride.
Erica my ride partner displaying the interesting ride conditions
at the Overland Adventure Maple Ride
One thing for certain this weekend, I'll be coming home with chewed up quads, the chronic never-good-enough- gear-ratio,  hoarding my matches the best I can while facing one climb at a time in my make believe polka dot jersey.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Season Of Slothness

If there's one thing we can all agree on, especially if you live here in the northeast, this winter scores a solid 8 in disciplinary weather punishment.  Wow.....

When the sh*t started hitting the fan back in December, I was whining and fighting it distracted with photography, travel and the holidays.Gone are the days when I would go out and run in minus whatever windchill. Stupid girl..  With that, I quickly grew doughy with inactivity and the thought of working my way  back to something that resembled fitness was far off and embracing this snowy frigid season while trying to do this was far from thought and just plain an inconvenience.

Unfortunately, whining doesn't burn very many calories and soon my favorite pair(s) of jeans were beginning to whittle down and by the start of January my inactivity and  winter grumpiness was in full swing. Surely I can blame this on the consistent cycle of injury/downtime in which my body has become accustomed to this time of year, right?


Speaking of consistent, I excelled in consistency with enough carbo intake that could feed 3 people.  Carbs and the desire to go lay down compliment each other nicely and it was often I had the desire to crawl into my mirco fleece sheets (you gotta get these) most nights around 9  after I mustered up enough energy to spatula my a$$ off the couch, 

Fast forward to mid January. I somehow snapped back from my unhinged state with the motivational factor being that my jeans selection was becoming even more frail and I began to justify that wearing sweatpants out daily was perfectly acceptable. 

First, I dug out my XC skis. Maybe.....I thought, if I get shiny new equipment I will ski again!  Surprisingly, my classic and skate skis albeit  old, were far from crappy.  My skate skis were top of the line (back then) and I just needed to tweak a few things. Big thanks to Chris Li at The Bikeway Source for always seeming to be available and helping me get out of my hibernation den with not only my skis, but studded tires so I could  get my bike out in the trails. Also, my Team Psycho teammate Skip Thomas has been gracious enough to let me slip into openings in the schedule of his way cool cave of  Computrainer PerfPRO cycling pain. It's just what I've needed to get back on the bike and try to gain some base back.

So that's what I've been doing.

I've skied 4-5 times using my classic skis trying to work on my technique while getting in a really
good workout which leaves me trashed and drenched in sweat.

LOOK!!!!  I went over a log!  :-P

Skip's House of pain and a view of his butt and my bike on the right.  :-)

See ya outside!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

You're Never Too Busy

 Recently I read an on line commentary that focused on using the phrase "I am so busy". Guess what? It isn't  respectable anymore  and we all should stop using it, like a knee jerk response when someone asks us how we are. We are also supposed to try and go an ENTIRE YEAR without saying that.

 So....I won't update today saying I have been so busy and felt too overwhelmed with all I could write,  so instead, I just decided to avoid writing altogether.   You didn't just read that, ok?

I'll try and make this one short 'cause I know you're  busy too.  :-)

My Belgian friend Kris Claeye  has been nagging me to come to Belgium for over a year. He finally wore me down so I booked a flight and off I went for a week December 17th.  I crammed as much as I could in the time I was there. Home base was Brussels.  I spent 6 hours walking around Brussels on one day. I shopped, drank expresso at cozy little cafes
and drank Belgian brew.
Oh yeah.. and I shot pictures at two cyclocross races. One  in Essen and a World Cup race in Namur.   It was a treat to have a my Belgian host  pick me up in Brussels and escort me out of the city to the race venues, give me the low down on all things Flemish, while I gave him lots of practice polishing up his English.  Kris has a coveted press pass/accreditation  to shoot at the race venues which got us prime parking and no entry fee. It also got Kris entry to areas I wasn't allowed while I pouted.
 I worked it  HARD out there buttering up spectators with big smiles while pointing and giving hand signals with my main goal being: get as close to the fencing as possible so I could crouch down and sometimes just plain sit in the mud  to avoid iPhones poking out into my shots. Many times in frustration, I wanted to ask the live feed camera operators perched up high if I could come up for a visit with my camera but I  just didn't have the guts to do it. Silly American girl....

It's a trip I will not forget soon  ever. Cyclocross in Belgium is similar to cyclocross in the US but magnified 3 x over.
It's the only way I can describe it.  It's intense, the courses unbelievably technical, It's no frills and they ( the spectators, and athletes) take it seriously. You will see all ages of spectators and they appear to not be athletic or do the sport themselves.
Wouldn't she rather be baking Christmas cookies?
  It's nothing to spend 150 euros to gain a pass to  the VIP tent set up just for spectators.
Just how popular is it?
If you ask anyone here in the US on the street what cyclocross is, they would look at you like your from another planet.  But over in Belgium, it's a whole different ball of wax.   A waiter at my hotel in Brussels who was Moroccan no less, knew exactly what I meant when I said " I'm here to shoot pictures at 2 cyclocross events."  "Namur?" He asked.   "Oui!!" I said.

I am ever so grateful for my amazing host who scooped me up the night I arrived and brought  me to the Christmas Market with his family in Brussels, took a day off from work to drag the wide eyed  American girl thru the streets of Ghent and Brouge,  Punched up my skills for tack sharp shooting  in less than idea lighting conditions and has made me very thoughtful of what I will post for images now that my standards are even higher in post production.

 Thrown into a foreign environment knowing I only had 2 days to shoot pictures in a place I may never visit again, I did a mini freakout on the first day.  I let the elements,  the conditions the spectators were given to navigate through and around coupled with the lack in control of where I wanted to shoot, get the best of me.
Spectator walk thru  
You ain't in Kansas anymore I quickly figured out.  By the end of the day I was muddy, wet and cold.
My boots after day one.
   I finally understood the law of reciprocity in photography. It was gonna be sink or swim standing in dim lighting even at 12 noon without a flash trying to capture action and not have a memory card of 400 plus images all blurry. You can read all you want to learn a new skill  but to me, there's nothin' better than hands on learning all the while  referring back to what you've actually read and only then does it really make sense.  For 2 days, all I did was constantly adjust shutter speeds, apertures and iso settings while quickly learning that when you do this, it affects that. And if your gonna do that, then you better adjust this AND that. Are you with me?  All of this as the light  was fading while trying to hold a heavy camera still in wet conditions while elbowing my way through burly old Belgian men. Do I sound whiny? Honestly, I loved every minute. It wasn't easy and that's what made it even more special.

Big Burly Belgian Men Example 

Next up: Boulder Colorado for Cyclocross Nationals this weekend. I am very excited!  It was a  last minute trip and one that I couldn't pass up. I am grateful to Vinu Malik the founder of FuelBelt who graciously helped me make the trip worth while.

Thanks for checking in!