Monday, August 24, 2015

Anthem Moonlight Ride 2015 Recap

Saturday morning, after making a seat-adjustment to my new (to me) Blue Axino, I set out for a 36 mile round-trip with RABA. The bike felt amazing, and I felt like I still had plenty of energy for the evening's 15-mile Full Moon event.

The Blue Axino, in her natural habitat: surrounded by other fast machines

So like an idiot I parked 5 miles away and biked in and arrived as the starting corral was forming.

I had registered in Wave B, or "Weekend Warriors", but had been warned that I would be weaving in and out of a lot of traffic in that group, so I made my way to the front and awaited the start of the race ride.

The view when I got there. It got a little more crowded up front before the ride finally started.

Out of the gate, traffic was thick and slow. I found this a bit surprising since the only bikes in front of me were in Wave A: "hard core". After a half-mile or so of just riding, I decided to do the only thing I know how to do: ride as fast as I can.

By mile marker 3, I had passed the overwhelming majority of Wave A. Then came the turn-around, and a guy nearly wiped out on some loose gravel in the middle of the turn (thanks Obama...).

At 4.5 miles, I was down to a handful of riders out front, and one guy was trying to make a run on me into Bryan Park. One thing this bike does exceptionally well, though, is climb, so I put down the pace for the next mile and set a MapMyRide record 1:22 for the next half mile of climbing, finally passing the last two riders as we came out of the park.  For the next 6.5 miles, all I saw were headlights behind me.

My dad got a shot of me at mile 10. Thanks, dad!

I got my own police escort for several miles, and kept thinking I was going to burn out and get blown away by a big break-away pack, but they just stayed about 2 blocks back the whole time.

Until mile 13, when the next rider back turned off his headlight and made a run on me. I was burning out, had no idea how much farther I had to go (a gap that has since been filled with the ordering of a Garmin Edge 520), and had backed off from my 21.2mph pace to a 19.5mph mile. I looked down into my mirror, and instead of headlights, I saw a grinning face.

He passed me on the hill, but tucked back in for the draft for the next half mile, taking advantage of my confusion when a course-worker nearly sent me down the wrong road to re-claim the position.

I hauled him back down as we over-took riders on the half-moon (8-mile) ride, then ran into more confusion as the course was not clearly laid out into the finish corral. As I was defending the inside line into the final turn, he darted out left as the 8-miler in front of us locked up. We both nailed the brakes, missed the guy by a foot or so, and then realized we'd left our steeds in top gear (53/11 on mine). At 5mph we both forced a slog to the finish line, with me getting the final power stroke that put me 1/4 of a bike-length ahead.

I was absolutely blown away that, having never competed on a bicycle, I'd just won my first event.

Then I learned that there was a small group that was evidently a couple of MILES ahead of me just about the whole time. I never even saw them, but there were about 10 of them, and they were apparently flying.

So I didn't win, but I did ride the whole course distance in under 41 minutes, ended up putting just over 60 miles on the bike for the day, and most importantly: I didn't wreck.

Now I have to get back to training for the Heart of Virginia metric century and the Martin's Tour of Richmond piccolo fondo.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Another year, another dang hobby...or two

Last year around this time, I'd just bought a bike. We were living in temporary housing while our house was being rebuilt from the fire, and I was riding to work. What I didn't realize was that I was just about at my heaviest, having just recently crossed the 170lb mark.

In spite of the fact that I put 99 miles on that bicycle in April of last year, by June I was at 175lbs, and my size 34 pants were starting to feel a little snug. Given that I'd ironically worn size 36 jeans in college, I did not find this the least bit amusing.

Clearly something needed to change, and the impending World Cup gave me the opportunity I didn't know I was looking for. On April 10 I happened to find a German training jersey at Dick's Sporting Goods. I picked it up to show my support for the country, along with a couple pairs of soccer shorts. The thought was that I would be coaching the kids' team again, so why not look the part?

But the shorts felt like they were cutting me in half, and every time I looked down I just saw a bulge of belly. Twas gross.

So I went through the Spring riding my bike, running with the kids on the soccer field, all the while gaining more and more weight. But by the end of their season I knew I wanted to play some actual soccer, and watching Germany DESTROY the competition solidified it.

In July, one month after I started logging every piece of food I ate (in MapMyFitness), I put my name out on the regional soccer league's web site. I wanted in.

I got radio silence for a few weeks, but in August the phone rang, and I was on a team. We were a bit of a mess, with most of us returning to the sport after many years away, but over the course of the season we started to figure it out, and by the end of the season I had dropped 20lbs and could almost stay on the field for 30 minutes without feeling like my lungs were coming out.

The team ended up with a losing season, overall, but it was good enough to convince us to take on an indoor league over the Winter. By the time that season started, I'd lost another 5lbs and was starting to think about turning my treadmill training into something productive.

I signed up for the Monument Avenue 10K for the 3rd time (after swearing I'd never do it again in 2010) and got serious about running, both for stamina on the soccer field and for its own sake.

In March I convinced Alastair to sign up for a .5 mile run, benefiting his school. On the day of the race, I weighed myself at 145.9 and decided, on a lark, to join the 5K happening at the same event. I ended up coming in 3rd place overall, my first ever competitive running podium. What's more, Alastair came in 3rd place in his run, absolutely tearing it up out there.

With 2 weeks left until the 10K, I felt pretty good about my chances to improve on a PR of 52:11.

The soccer season started around the same time, and I was astonished to realize how much faster I was on the field, and how much longer I could stay in the action.

Race day, though, was below freezing and windy. Lots of self-doubt crept in during the mile+ walk to the starting line. Once the race started, though, I found a pretty steady rhythm (thanks to my Garmin watch) and a couple of rabbits to chase, and ended up blowing my old PR out of the water by over 5 minutes with a 46:44. That's a solid minute off the pace I wanted to keep, so now I already have a goal for next year. Sigh...

And to make it worse, I just signed up for another 5K this morning: the Hanover County Pooch Pursuit. I keep telling myself that I hate running, and that I only do it for stamina on the soccer field, but I'm kind of addicted to competition.

The good news is that, barring injury, I can now go a full 45 minutes on the field before old age gets the better of me, and my weight is a full 30lbs down from last Summer.

Now to just find the time and space to take that fancy bike out for a ride...

Monday, March 24, 2014

I don't do hobbies very well

Years ago I got into rock climbing. Ordinarily this would be No Big Deal, as many other people were into rock climbing at the time. All I should have needed was a harness, shoes, maybe a chalk bag, and partial ownership of a rope. But that is not how I do things. I had to have my own rope, rope bag, helmet, spare harness (just in case), webbing, carabiners, ascenders, belay devices, and eventually a rappelling rope, because you know: the elasticity is different.

Then came computers. I worked as a tech at several PC shops around town, so I collected everything I could get my hands on, while my rock climbing equipment gathered dust. I had, at one time, a computer room with no heat or AC that stayed warm in the Winter and blistering in the Summer because it had 8 workstations in about 80-sq-ft of space. This obviously wouldn't do, so I built a rack with help from a friend, and grew my collection to 11 workstations, a KVM to manage it all, a domain (for educational purposes, dontcha know), a huge homemade L-shaped desk built on 4x4 posts, laser printers, color printers, laptops, Macs, and I think at one point a Linux box that I was never quite sure what to do with.

Then came fitness. In 2002 (I think?) I signed up for a gym membership. Numbers became my obsession. Weight, weights, reps, cardio. 3 nights per week, 2.5 hours at a time. Rock climbing equipment came back out for a brief foray, but how can you track numbers if you're out getting dirty on the rocks? You can't: that's how. So back into the shed it went, and over the next 3 years I got into a shape that I was VERY pleased with. I even ran my first 5K. Numbers were my life.

Then I found a new set of numbers. Horsepower. Torque. Lap times. Towing capacities. PSI. Fuel-flow rates. I (have) spent 8 years (so far) chasing automotive performance numbers, while blithely ignoring the financial numbers (I do track them, but it's far more depressing).

When the race car broke, that attention turned to slot cars. 15 digitally-chipped cars, ~80 meters of track, a purpose-built 8'x8' table, and 2 digital powerbases can attest to that. Since we won't have full-time access to the house until June or July, though, that's on hold. Le sigh.

So when I decided to buy my son a new bike a few months ago, it should have come as absolutely no surprise to anyone that I would obsess over it. They tell you to buy the biggest frame your kid can fit on, so that your kid will get the most use out of the bike. But at his size, he could barely hold the steel bikes that fit him upright. So I looked at aluminum and bought him the nicest thing I could afford: a Specialized Hot Rock 24'. It's nice, light, and while it's huge for an 8-year-old, the seat post fits low enough into the frame to just barely fit him. This bike should honestly last him several years.

So if he can have a nice bike, why shouldn't I? Uh oh.

I got it in my head about a month ago that my old bike, a Roadmaster Savage 21-speed, is just painful to use. It was inherited, so it was never sized properly, and half of the hardware has spent way too much time in the elements. Riding with my son would not be fun on the ol' rusty girl.

I started looking, and realized that I didn't want to spend more than $1000, because I know how poorly I do hobbies. I looked at Specialized, Trek, and ultimately a Giant Roam 2. It has hydraulic brakes, Shimano Acera shifters, all aluminum construction, a 27-speed drivetrain, and rang in way under the prices of similarly-equipped bikes from other brands.

But as soon as the credit card came out, I realized I'd done it again. 4 days have passed since I bought the bike, and in that time I've ordered luggage racks & luggage (for picnics in the park!), lights, lock, bottle cage, cell phone mount, tools, gloves, and I'm starting to look at cycling clothes (blech). I've found an app that can track my rides and report on fitness numbers (because after gaining ~20lbs in the past 2 years, that obsession is back in full force, too), and I'm actively looking for parent/child cycling groups. I found a bike-rack that Katelyn's parents gave me a couple years ago which now lives in the Miata's trunk, and Alastair and I went for rides both Saturday and Sunday.

And now that I've ridden with him, I'm getting itchy to upgrade his bike. With only 7 speeds, he does a great job climbing, but has no cruise speed to speak of (front derailleur: $$$), and his rim-brakes are always on, even when they're not, so he cannot coast very well (disc brakes: $$).

But so far, while my butt may be a bit sore, we are LOVING our bikes. Alastair has never really had an opportunity to get out and ride free, and the idea of tossing the bikes on the back of the car and just going out to explore has really resonated with him. And now that I can get my all-important data, I think we've found our 2014 obsession.

Maybe my 2015 obsession will be 'saving for retirement', because so far that's not a hobby I've excelled at.