Sunday, May 18, 2008

Trail Note - the Tour de Cure

Yesterday I rode in the Tour de Cure, a fund-raising ride for the American Diabetes Association. A co-worker organized a team and one of my initial reasons for signing up was to ride with the County Executive (my boss's boss's boss), Ron Sims. I also thought it could be a good motivator to push myself a little harder and farther as a cyclist than I've done before. I was a little worried about the fund-raising aspect, as that's not something I particularly like to do, but since the required minimum was pretty low (if worse came to worse, I could pay it myself), I thought I'd go for it.

The Training:
70 miles is farther than I've ever ridden before and May is pretty early in the riding season here where it isn't dependably warm and dry until July. The ride had a training program, however, as well as clinics on various riding skills, so I thought I'd utilize those resources. I didn't end up going on any group rides or clinics, but we had a few really nice weekends and I got in the long rides I felt I'd need (starting at 35 miles a few months ago and peaking at 65 miles a few weeks ago). My training consisted of a long ride almost every weekend, the daily commute (7 miles round trip, 3 or 4 days a week), a weekly commute extension (add on some hilly miles on the way home once a week or so), and some running (3 days a week, two shorter and one longer run).

The Fund-raising:
After putting it off for far too long, I finally followed some advice I'd heard years ago: I sent an email to almost everyone in my address book telling them about the ride and asking for sponsorship. (I did filter the list a bit - not sending it to those I hadn't seen in a while or anyone I felt had too much on their plate already to worry about another cause.) I did feel a bit guilty about this for a little while. Of course, I don't like asking for money, and don't like the potential guilt that a request like this could incur. But then, I was only sending out information - no one had to donate, and they weren't sending me money; it was going to a very deserving cause. As the donations started rolling in from my very generous family and friends, I was touched by the support. One friend reminded me that diabetes runs in her family and I felt even better about the ride. I raised so much money in such a short amount of time, I won a prize that had been donated.

The Ride:
We got very lucky with the weather: a hot and sunny weekend! By the time I left the house a little before 7 am, it was already warm enough to be comfortable in short sleeves and sandals. There were loops of various distances for riders to choose from and riders were supposed to leave at staggered times based in the distance they were riding. This meant that I was supposed to leave at 8 am, and the crowds were pretty small for the 70-milers (the 100-mile riders had already come and gone). Everything was well organized, volunteers were friendly, and pre-ride food plentiful (I seemed to be one of the only people taking advantage of the snacks provided). While I think we were supposed to start as a group at 8, most folks rolled out whenever, and I started at 8 with only a dozen or so people. Everyone was a little slow getting going and I found myself leading out the group for several miles.

There was a team of guys in red and black jerseys behind me who I could hear chatting as they rode. Eventually they got organized and passed me, after thanking me for the lead out and offering that I could join their group. I fell in behind them along with another woman who I chatted with as we rode to the first rest stop at mile 15.

Riding with the group made for a must faster and easier ride, and I was determined to stay with them for as long as I could. The "put the hammer down" (I think that's the right cycling-phrase) at one point between the second and third rest stops and I dropped back, but I rejoined them again after a break and stayed with them until the group more or less broke up on the hills in final 15 miles. I knew intellectually that riding with a group is faster and easier than riding alone, but I have very little experience riding with others. It is really amazing the difference that a pack can make. They didn't form a formal paceline, more like a loose group, which enabled conversation and made it easier to hang on at the back.

It was a beautiful route and a lovely morning, and it was great rolling through shady trees, past pastoral landscapes, with the occasional appearance of snow-capped mountains. It did get hot as the morning went on, especially at the later rest stops. We actually got to the point where we wanted to ride to escape the heat. The ride didn't have too many tough climbs until we had to climb out of the Snoqualmie Valley. We climbed for several miles, but it was cooler in the trees and I felt really good, thanks to the team's effort earlier in the ride. I ran into some of my co-worker team mates and the rest stop who were also having a good day.

I finished the ride at 1 pm, almost an hour earlier than my projected finish time. Volunteers were ringing cow bells and I was handed a medal. The finish area had lots of cold water and sports drink as well as Chipotle soft tacos (we were powered by...) and live music.

All in all, a terrific experience, one that I would gladly do again next year.

Friday, May 16, 2008

It's Bike to Work Day!

And here in the Emerald City, we have sunny skies and summer temperatures, making it a joy to get in the saddle. I attended a bike rally in front of City Hall this morning, and the mayor is predicting that 25,000 people will be biking to work in Seattle today!

If you have a chance, get out of your car today and stretch those legs. Together we can make a difference in our environment, our roads, and our health.

Addendum: This is a terrific resource for cyclists and drivers on sharing the road safely.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Concert

Umm... we missed the concert.

We bought tickets to the Cloud Cult show a month or so ago, our desire to see this band again live overcoming our old-and-stodgy tendency to pass on any late night shows / activities. We determined that if the doors opened at 9, with a few opening bands, the absolute earliest Cloud Cult would play would be 11. So, in order to make sure that we were awake and able to see a show, we carefully planned our evening.

We knew we could not go home. If we did our usual Friday night routine (swim after work, get home a little 7, make and eat dinner), the siren song of the couch would keep us from leaving the house. So, we would stay downtown.

We could not spend the evening hanging out in a restaurant or bar, or we risked getting too sleepy by the time the show started. Solution: a movie, with plenty of caffeinated soda to get us wired. After some happy hour snacks and beverages, we caught the 7:45 showing of Iron Man at the Cinerama.

We got out of the movie a little after 10 pm and made our way to Capital Hill. We got to the venue about a half hour later to find lots of kids outside the club. I overhead someone saying "I felt like they were singing just to us!" My stomach was starting to sink. "What if they started early?" I asked. Jeff thought I was being ridiculous; "what closing band ever goes on before 11?" We walked into the club to find the lights on, people ushering everyone outside, and I saw the bill. Doors open at 8, first band soon after, and Cloud Cult 9:45 - 10:30. Second showing doors would open at 11.

We looked at our tickets again: doors at 8. We looked at the bill: added, second show! First show sold out! We then looked at our tickets again, for the sold out show that had ended less than 10 minutes ago.

Jeff and I are planners, to an annoying degree. I get downright neurotic when it comes to schedule details, especially pertaining to tickets. I check and recheck dates. And we spent a lot of time planning for this evening. We planned perfectly for a missed concert.

At least we really enjoyed Iron Man.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Inquiring Minds Want To Know

If one has a cat door so the cat can go in and out at will, do all the neighborhood cats (squirrels, rats, raccoons) also come and go at will?

Now that we're letting George taste the great outdoors, we've started contemplating the cat door option, but I can just imagine the wild and crazy parties at 2 am that he would throw for the neighborhood critters.
The Word of the Day is Twitchy.

As in, voters are getting too twitchy, thinking about electability rather than who they truly want to be their leader.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Trail Note

I've been feeling very tired and creaky all week, slow on the bike, taking short cuts on the "long" run. Jeff returned from Fido last night and reported that everyone is feeling tired this week. After a weekend of snow and hail, last weekend was really nice, and apparently everyone who runs and/or rides took full advantage, despite early season fitness levels and advancing years.

I rode around Lake Washington on Saturday, the long and flat way via Marymore Park and the western shore of Lake Sammamish. The total ride was 65 miles; by far the farthest I've gone this year and perhaps ever. I'm training for the Tour de Cure on May 17th, where I've signed up to do a 70 mile loop which is also pretty hilly. This weekend, weather permitting, I'm going to try to do a long and hilly ride.

I took Sunday off (couldn't quite muster the energy or interest to go for a run), so I tried to make up for it with a 7 mile run around Lake Union on the Cheslahud Trail. I started tired, and by the end was tired enough to cut a big corner, walking up the hill and cutting off a half mile plus. The reason for the long-ish ride following the run? Jeff and I are thinking very tentatively about a 2009 Ironman. More about that craziness later. Right now, I've got to get geared up for the run (literally) into the office.