Monday, September 28, 2009

Up a creek without a paddle….

With the car all geared up, food packed tight, flashlights powered up, we had to accept the fact early Saturday morning that we WERE NOT canoeing—even with all of our prepared gear. Torrential downpours, monsoon and flash floods are not ideal conditions for canoeing and the ranger explained this to us from under his larger than life umbrella. From what we can best estimate, we would have spent MORE time bailing the canoe with our little multiple use bucket than paddling it.

The worst part of planning ANY outdoor adventure is the weather. Unless you live in a very even tempered environment, anything can happen. It is best to curtail your excitement, at least until you are nearly finished, so as not to let yourself down. Yes, we checked the weather channel to acquire copious amounts of information but here is the thing about the weather channel…..THEY ARE NOT PERFECT. Their last reading before we all loaded up to leave Louisville said, “chance of showers”—well, the chance was 100%! As outdoor lovers, we all were prepared to be wet….damp….or moist but had we ventured out into the deluge we were standing in, I am not sure I would be here typing this email.

However, the weekend was not a complete wash (not sure if I intended on that pun or not), I spent time at several tourist spots in my home state, albeit wet spots. I had several slices of my favorite pizza franchise which has NOT expanded into Louisville yet. I saw wild turkeys, families arguing about rock candy, and an assortment of “bad ass” Americana vehicles all graciously adorned with the American flag (one should complete the bad ass look). Perhaps the prize of the weekend was a brownie offered to me at the Big South Fork Motor Lodge. The owner gave each guest a complimentary brownie which far outdid the d├ęcor of the relaxed motel (everything was painted Pepto-Bismol pink….EVERYTHING). I also learned at the nearby eatery that ANYTHING can be fried and cobbler comes in an assortment of flavors, all delicious.

In other words, I will be back (sans rain)…

Thursday, September 24, 2009

There are other things besides cycling….

What? A weekend without cycling? HOLD ON! Is that possible? How? When? Some of my friends have staged an intervention. They have sat me down, carefully prying the handlebars from my calloused grasp and replaced them with a paddle. How the hell am I supposed to peddle with a paddle? What kind of cruel trick is this? I don’t need this! You people get away from me!!!

It is obviously not a cruel trick but some of my friends have said since the century ride is over, it is time for me to return to some of the OTHER outdoor activities I so love. To begin this process of “outdoor re-entry” they have planned a canoe trip as a required course of treatment. I like canoes…this could work.

Quick note: It has rained in Kentucky all week. In fact, jokes about Biblical proportions circle the office on a daily basis. Rest assured, the ranger says the river is manageable and not hazardous. I am hoping that he and I share the same definitions. If he is thinking class 5 rapids are not hazardous, then we ARE NOT on the same page and I will curse his name as I am swirling under a rock, drowning.

I was excited about a canoe trip, excited to get back out into nature (sans bicycle). Boat, paddle, cooler of food and beer all lead to a fun filled day….it sounds very relaxing. Yet, my friend interrupted my relaxed face to tell me that REALLY the trip is two days. We leave out early Saturday morning and canoe for 6-7 hours, then we dock wherever we can find space, set up camp for the night, and finish out Sunday morning where my car will be parked. I said, “great…what kind of campsite is it?” and to my surprise, my friend says, “whatever kind we make it…it is not really a campsite.” So…I need to pack some toilet paper and a shovel for latrine digging! Wow, when my friends decide to immerse me outdoors, they know just how to do it. Nothing says….NATURE….like digging a latrine at 5AM. NICE! However because of the primitiveness and length of trip, it means we have to pack everything we need in a canoe, a little boat prone to tipping.

Another quick note: A cold front is approaching this weekend slicing through the humid wet conditions we have had and creating cold dewy mornings. I should explain that I am ALWAYS cold unless it is 80 degrees outside. Most camping trips require me to carry at least 1-2 sweatshirts for layering at night, as well as other warm gear to cover any and all exposed parts of my bloodless body.

So the canoe trip is a “real” canoe trip where we will be out in the middle of nowhere minus cell phones, warmth, and bikes. We have to pack light but also carry everything we need in ONE canoe (I hope this sucker is the yacht of canoes). Apparently a foot heater is NOT a necessity and has been voted off the canoe. Also not allowed, my subzero sleeping bag and heated socks (yes, I have heated socks….I have small frozen feet for God’s sake!). Gear that is permitted…compass, small pack, food (minimal), beer (ample), dry clothes, fire starter, toilet paper, and my ipod. I have packed my running shoes because even on a “canoe trip”…I need to train for the trail marathon. I suspect I will have some woodland path all to myself.

This form of emersion therapy my friends have chosen is certainly anything but cycling. These particular friends do not cycle …so not only will I NOT be riding but even talking about bikes would be wasted breath as neither of them even OWN one. Wait! Maybe I could sell them on bike riding. Hmmm. I had better rethink that idea. They could tump me out of the canoe at any point and then I would be left to find my way home in soaking wet cold clothes. Abandonment will only cause me to latch onto cycling more and from there it will be a traverse downhill nightmare of “binge cycling” escalating my use to deadly proportions. How about I just concentrate on keeping the canoe upright, my belly full of food, and taking a lot of pictures? My bike will be waiting for me when I get home and our reunion will be sweet. (I swear I could quit at anytime!)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Not about IF…but about WHEN

While there were several parts of the century ride that I deemed “scary”…nothing was as frightening as hearing the tales of several riders who had crashed on the course breaking bones, needing an ambulance, and being unconscious. The hairs on my sore, sunburned forearms stood straight up when I heard phrases like: “broken collar bone,” “road rash,” or “cracked helmet.” As probability dictates, one day this conversation will be about yourself (you may or may not be there to hear about it).

There is no denying that at some point in your cycling career whatever bike you ride, you will wreck. I have found in the woods, I am more likely to crash into trees as they tend to jump right out in front of you (oak trees are sneaky!). From a distance other riders may think you are a tree hugging, spandex wearing hippie but you will likely be feeling a broken face, busted nose, cracked teeth which lacks the zen of the first image. Besides trees, other worries on the trails include jagged rocks, tire grabbing tree roots (they grab your tire and WILL NOT let go), mud, water, creeks, log crossings, joggers (with or without pets), bee’s (bee stings distract you from navigating your bike), furry daredevil critters, other cyclists (we sometimes run into each other literally….a variation of a tribal group hug sometimes involving stitches). If you can make it through a mountain bike ride without bleeding, consider yourself lucky. Then there is road cycling.

Now, take ½” (if that wide) tires and place a cyclist on top navigating traffic (cars and bicycles do not play well together), other cyclists, pot holes, road kill (not to self: do not ride through a bloated dead raccoon, it smells), stop lights, stop signs, more insects, railroad tracks, steep uphills and even steeper downhills, rain slicked roads--then you will understand why at some point YOU WILL WRECK, CRASH, or DNF a ride. Even on the best day of riding, one or more of the above obstacles that you have navigated a million times before will fail you causing “something” to happen.

Countless videos adorn You Tube displaying flailing cyclists sliding across a road, slamming into a tree, or attempting dangerous stunts resulting in a top tube smashing into a male riders crotch (ouch!). It is hard to NOT close your eyes and watch these videos and yet, who wants their brief fifteen seconds of fame to be shredding epidermis or crotch racking or helmet splitting? Not myself.

What can a cyclist do? NOTHING and this is perhaps the most helpless part of the sport. This is the worst part of owning and using bikes on a regular basis….you are powerless to prevent some accidents. It is not about IF but more about WHEN. Every ride I leave out on, even if it is just around the park (2.0 miles from my house), I take my picture I.D. (in case my face is shredded on asphalt), my insurance card, my cell phone and a credit card (ambulances do not take checks). There are days I have made jokes about wrapping myself in bubble wrap but of course…that would look ridiculous perhaps more than the spandex (is that possible, really?). It is a risk you accept but do not take lightly. The best you can hope for is a good story that YOU can tell and raise the arm hairs of others.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The First Century Ride—A Two-Day Recipe


1 -2 nicely built road bikes

1-2 inexperienced riders

3-4 Months Training

3-4 Additional Supportive Riders (Husbands and Friends are suitable)

2 Cycling outfits

1 Tube of butt paste

1 Camera

1 Live turtle

1 Dead turtle

5-7 Baby possums

Sunscreen-SPF 1000 (20-100 ounces)

Heaping spoons of adventure


Take the inexperienced novice riders and place them on their shiny new bikes nearly every afternoon for three to four months, regardless of weather conditions (sun, rain, wind). Riders should be seasoned to large hills (lots of hills), rollers, cracks in the road, shifting their buttocks, sitting for long periods, standing, avoiding cars, saving marsupials, and learning to converse while their heart rate is spiking. Add additional training partners for deep flavor to each ride including those that insult, coach, and encourage. Amish farms may be added for additional richness and culture (cinnamon rolls optional).

After 3.5 months of “seasoning”, place riders on a course for their virgin century ride. Choose a course that is recognized all across the country and completed by hundreds. Pack snacks in their jerseys, insurance cards, a camera, and lots of chamois butter. Set a slow pace by singing Flashdance and parading yourself around the state for seven hours in the direct sun. Curse a lot to make the hills disappear and when riders start to get bored (mile 85), save an animal, preferably a turtle with a head that is still alive (although stopping to remove the dead turtle is a nice gesture as well). Laugh at yourself and other riders as your grunt up a hill with a 14% grade. Utilize walking riders when you lose the momentum to clip yourself out.

Once riders are cooked (around 112 miles), place riders in folding chairs surrounded by delicious carb loaded foods and an ice cream cake that will make your toes curl. Ice packs, candy corn, beer and chamois butter may be necessary to keep the riders comfortable. Next, place riders in bed before 10PM or until they slump over in their chairs from exhaustion.

The following morning, remove riders from bed, slowly and nurse their sunburned lips and noses. Apply liberal amounts of emollients, hot tea, and coffee to their bodies. Insert monkey bread, fresh fruit, and more ice cream cake. Place riders back on bike noting the multiple sore spots. Riders will be much slower on day two, so please allow time for additional “cooking.” Riders will need additional rest, possible rides from SAG vans, liquids, and encouragement. Riders are fully “cooked” when they cry at the last mile due to over-excitement of recognizing where they are. THEN….and ONLY THEN, remove bikers from their devices, place in a car, and take home to place them in the shower.

This two day recipe yields, (2) fully cooked first-time century riders, loads of laughter, sunburn, tan lines, tons of memories, and multiple slices of accomplishment. Best served fresh for days and days of stories.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

What am I Forgetting?

I am a list maker. I love to make a list for any approaching large task, so the upcoming century ride is NO different. The challenge of this ride is there is ONLY so much you can carry in your jersey or under your saddle. On Tuesday, I sent a bag on with a change of clothes, Advil, a change of socks, fresh shorts, and facewash to our final destination, BUT I still have to figure out WHAT I need to cram into my jersey or under my saddle and WHAT, if anything, will I forget…

Things Not to Forget…(my list as it sits on my desk now)

Extra Tubes: I have 2 extra tubes and while you would think you do not have to worry about a flat with hundreds of other cyclists out there…the truth is, you need tubes and surely someone will stop to help a girl who has only fixed her tire ONCE this season.

CO2 Cartridges: These things ARE wonderful. I love my tiny hand pump but if I really had to inflate a tire with that contraption, I would build the biceps of a grizzly bear in the hour or so it would take to get the tire up to 120psi.

Food: Sure, there are SAG stops all over the place but I need my electrolyte stuffed foods and snacks that I love and that I am used to. I am thinking black cherry blocks….apple pie hammer gels….and maybe some jelly belly’s for a treat. I am assuming like a marathon near the end of the ride, I will be so disgusted with gelatinous masses; I will have to physically wrestle with myself to consume one last vanilla bean Gu.

Advil: My knee has been feeling “okay” on most rides….it is when I try to do too much, too soon, that the familiar burning pain creeps in. I HAVE TO PACK MY ADVIL and take it as directed to ward off inflammation and tenderness.

Multi-tool: These things are not just for the bike but they are also for digging dirt out of your shoes or sometimes opening a beer bottle. I doubt I will be doing EITHER of these things on the bike on Saturday but just in case, that tool will be packed.

Camera: You can tell people you did a century ride….OR….you can SHOW them. With so many friends riding, I want pictures and while I have NOT perfected the “take-a-picture-while-riding” technique, I am certain I will be taking a lot of pictures at the SAG stops.

I.D.: Once again….if I should end up unconscious and unable to give my insurance providers name, I hope that someone will have the sense to look in my jersey for my insurance card, picture I.D. and the pittance of cash I carry on a ride. I hope that I will NOT NEED these items for ANY reason….ANY reason….but just in case….

Cell Phone: I need my cell phone, if anything, so I can call in updates on the course. My mother and father demanded I call regularly so they do not have to worry about me in the country side. I have not mastered the “talk-while-riding” technique and I will assume that it directly correlates to the “take-a-picture-while-riding” technique of which I will make a note to learn for next year. I will be chatting at some SAG stops…I am sure.

Hand Sanitizer: Let’s face it…the further along you get on a ride, the fewer faculties you possess and if I have to pee on the side of the road (and I know I will) I could probably end up pee-ing on my shoes or my hand (ewww). Bath and Body works makes a wonderful white citrus hand sanitizer that is tiny and can go anywhere. It smells good while destroying millions of polluting microbes. Who wants swine flu on a century ride?

Sunscreen: This is a sneaky time of the year. It is cooler out but the sun is STILL out all day and I could add about 15,000 freckles to my face by the end of the day…but instead, I am carrying some sunscreen with me because not only do I not want swine flu, I do not want the early stages of skin cancer either.

Band Aids: These great adhesive inventions are great for blisters, bee stings, or light abrasions that occur here and there. A few of them can really go a LONG way.

Positive Attitude: Am I nervous? Sure but that does not mean that I not going to carry a positive attitude. For over 3-months, I have worked to do this ride and through the pain, the exhaustion, and the steep hills from hell, I have been positive and assured myself many times over that this will be fun. My training partners have been supportive and made even the slowest rides memorable.

Today and tomorrow are rest days from the bike. I have scheduled laundry and leg rest in the evenings. I will lay everything out Friday night JUST to make sure I do not forget anything. It is likely I will forget something…

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I am 32 and I have diaper rash…

When you start biking whether it be road, cross, mountain bike or what have you….everyone has to tell you about the products, brands and items they endorse even though few, if any of these opinionated riders, receive compensation or sponsorships for their brand placement. Shimano Durrace shifters are discussed so often, they are mentioned in a You Tube video. Have you discussed hubs with someone? Did they tell you “Chris King is the THING to have…?” but did you discuss your chamois cream with anyone yet?

First, until cycling, I was unaware that there was a market for “crotch emollients”. As a former runner, I am a huge fan of Body Glide which looks like deodorant without the pleasant smell. Body glide prevents chaffing on long runs where even the best sewn seam in a shirt can become a horrible discouraging deterrent to finishing your marathon (Ever heard of red nipples? Yeah…). So, it does seem only natural that there are products designed for your buttocks on long rides.

Sure enough….one, two, three long rides into this training, I noticed my “bits” were quite uncomfortable, to the point, I began taking on the cowboy stride after a ride. It was time to realize that at the age of 32, I had diaper rash or in this case, chamois rash. Even the best padded shorts out there CANNOT prevent diaper rash. However, now the concern was choosing the right cream for a very delicate part of the body.

I asked a lot of people…”Hey! What do you smear on your ass before a ride?”…with a variety of answers including some homemade concoctions that need not be mentioned in public (you want me to put Crisco where?). However, time and time again, people recommended butt paste. Huh? What? What the heck is butt paste? It is what it is…..paste for your butt or in my case, my sits bones. Originally designed for delicate baby skin strapped in a sweaty, stinky diaper all day….this stuff is the cure for those who cannot vocalize that their rear is on fire. I can vocalize it and I made a “rash dash” for the baby section of my nearest Target store to stock up and put the fire out.

Sure enough, there in the baby aisle, next to calming lavender bath wash, baby oil assortment, and aloe drenched diaper wipes was a bright yellow tube, Bourdeaux Butt Paste. I was afraid of what others might think if I purchased it and ran to the bathroom in the store, so I waited until I got home for a moment of instant relief….and I do mean INSTANT.

The consistency of “butt paste” is that of old school paste in a jar. It does not smell bad like Ben Gay but it does not smell like a pot of fresh cut roses either. The package says it is for chaffing skin….which trust me….that’s what I have. The instructions say to “apply a liberal amount to the affected area.” There is no dignified way of doing this and liberal is subjective but I have found that propping a foot up on the edge of the commode offers the best advantage point. Now, in my list of necessities which includes an extra tube, co2 cartridge, and snack…I also must apply butt paste before going on a ride.

So, this is MY PRODUCT ENDORSEMENT of which I receive NO compensation for. If you cycle…and you find your crotch a bit uncomfortable after a ride…GET SOME BOURDEAUX BUTT PASTE. Do not worry about mothers staring at you in the baby aisle while wearing spandex (I went RIGHT after a ride which if I had waited, I might not have gotten so many stares)…this is about the comfort of your butt….get some paste, apply it liberally and let your butt thank you with the reward of a smooth ride with little or no discomfort.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Keeping my mouth shut…the first lesson I should learn

How long have I lived in Louisville? Off and on for 32-years… this fact means I am accustom to our seasonal shifts. Normally, by Labor Day, the sun begins receding in the sky much earlier than any biker would like. The days of July nights with a near 9PM sunset fade all too quickly and soon I find myself looking at my watch at 8:25 wondering where the sun has disappeared to. It is a sad time for all bikers in the city. We come to accept that because of the constraints of our 9-5 jobs, our rides become shorter….or we are forced to become faster to finish some of our favorite routes. KNOWING ALL OF THIS….five women still could not resist the urge to ride a 35 mile loop Monday night insisting that we would finish before the sunset. Right? Wrong. From this wrong decision, some obvious mistakes were noted to be improved upon for our future rides.

Mistake One: Timing. Five women are NEVER on time to anything. So five women gather but some are running late…thus shaving off a few minutes of valuable daylight.

Mistake Two: Chatting. Five women cannot gather together and NOT feel the urge to chat and catch up with each other. From this chat session about love lives, vacations, new bike parts, clothing, hair and make-up discussions, we shaved off even MORE daylight.

Mistake Three: Ignoring mistakes #1 and #2. Ignoring that we had completely blown out 30-minutes of valuable solar energy, we proceeded on our decided route.

The End Result: Five women had to make “the call.” For those not familiar with cycling….let me explain “the call.” At any given point in a ride, you may need a rescue, some assistance, someone to come and retrieve you. There are many reasons for “the call”.

1. You could be lost—so lost that the only REAL option is to call and have someone find you on four wheels who also has access to Google maps or a Garmin. You can tell them you are by a corn field, a barn, and two brown cows.

2. You could be hurt—hopefully not hurt too bad but you may incur some road rash that with whipping wind causes a stingy pain worse than the ache you felt when you dropped all that money on your bike

3. Your bike could bonk—your bike is a machine and sometimes machines fail. You can only carry so many tools on a ride, so if your derailleur gives out….brake pads fly off….seat post snaps ….you are left to hike home in clips or make….”the call”

4. You could bonk—sometimes your body says, “enough is enough” and it gives out on you….in which case you hopefully can call someone to shovel your pathetic worn out self into their car and find carbohydrates as quickly as possible (or beer)

5. Then….there is the OTHER reason to make the call…you have made a mistake….a mistake that will cost you your pride and test the marriages of two of your friends (uh oh). You did not calculate the setting sun. Instead, you chatted, you waited and the next thing you know…it is too dark to ride safely.

Our End Result…

There on the side of a two lane road, some 8-10 miles from home, five women huddled together in the gathering darkness awaiting the arrival of two spouses. Spandex is not a heat conductor in an empty parking of a restaurant who boasts amazing fried chicken. We would not know about the chicken because they are also one of those family owned places that closes on Mondays. This left us outside in the elements under a orange street light, slowing feeling the temperature drop. Thirty minutes passed and we stood there, shivering, swaying our bodies for warmth while looking at each other as the night got darker realizing that we made the right choice to not navigate a narrow two-lane road. A mullet styled motorist insisted on directing himself through the parking lot engulfing us in diesel fumes from his 1986 Ford F-150. His bleary eyes and five o’clock shadow did not make him look like a friendly neighbor we would want to converse with. We were herded together like Giselle’s hoping he would not return. Thankfully, the spouses arrived with their trucks, heated seats, and well meaning words (as one spouse pointed to each of us saying, “dumb ass”).Thankful, we accepted the well deserved criticism and piled into our respectful vehicles, helmets still on our lowered heads, embarrassed that we had to make “the call.”

It was bound to happen in my cycling career. Of course, I am without a spouse, so generally, my rescue options are my parents and a few close friends. I was MORE than thankful for the well meaning husbands of my two friends. Ironically at the beginning of the ride, my friend asked, “any more adventures on rides?”…I made the mistake and said, “Actually the rides have been pretty tame lately.” What was I thinking?