Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fall could defeat Superman....Promise.

Everyone gets all excited about Fall….the colors, the pumpkins, cute kids in even cuter costumes, festivals and newly crafted seasonal brews (Pyramid Pumpkin Ale-DELICIOUS!). What everyone FAILS to realize is….this is the perfect disguise of Fall….FALL IS A THIEF. While we are busy consuming our pumpkin ale in a gourd patch and watching little ones beg for tooth rotting confections…Fall is stripping our valuable ride time hour by hour….RIGHT UNDER OUR PUMPKIN BUZZED NOSES! WAKE UP PEOPLE! FALL IS A CRUEL HEARTLESS BEAST DISGUISED WITH COLORS AND COOL BREEZES!

Fall is the sneakiest of all seasons….coming in slow and unassuming. First the temperature starts to slowly regress. This lures any biker outside because we hate to ride in 98% humidity with the sun beaming on our backs and forearms. As the temperature falls, then here come the beautiful leaves. Leaves of all colors, shapes and sizes cover the roads, the potholes, the cracks and trick us into climbing oversized hills to see amazing views of the Crayola colors unfolding before our eyes. All the while, the mercury is at a reasonable level where you still sweat but you do not feel the need to vomit when you finish a ride. Basically motorists need to give double the room to any biker they pass because in the Fall, we are entranced with the light breeze and perfect colors falling around us. This sly season causes a great distraction from the road and trails we are SUPPOSED to be watching. It only takes a few falling red leaves to distract us from a creek crossing and then….BAM….we are in the creek and because it is Fall…THAT CREEK IS COLD!

Fall also is a thief of daylight. I like to walk out of my office around 5 O’Clock like most red blooded humans. In the spring and summer months, I can go home, load up the bike, take my time changing clothes and choosing my favorite hydration drinks. Then Fall arrives and the end of my day looks like someone pressed the big RED panic button on my desk (I really do not have a panic button but it would be fun if I did). First, I have to take my bike to work along with a bag of clothes, accessories and food. At approximately 4:45, I race to the bathroom, change clothes, then race back to my office (while getting laughs from coworkers looking at my spandex!), load up everything so precisely at 5:00….I am out the door and hopefully with little traffic, I can be riding by 5:15. Then I realize at first around 7:45 that it is too dark to ride…then 7:30….then 7:15…and soon the sun will set at 4:45!!!! Okay, not that early but for a couple of weeks…the sun will set shortly after 5:00…meaning my only option is to drive home, hop on the trainer and look out my front window into the dark, abysmal, night. (ugh).

All of this absence of warmth and light means that each weekend is more important than the last. I crave a warm, sunny Saturday and as soon as I can thaw out my legs, I am out on a ride. You are probably asking, “What does Fall steal on the weekends?”…..MY PRECIOUS TIME! Fall likes to tease in the later weekends….with rain, drizzle, light snow, sudden temperature changes, windy days. It has an arsenal of teasing plights to force me to leave my bike hanging on the wall! My favorite ride preventer….THE HOLIDAYS. You cannot leave a turkey unattended or a house of family members alone for too long. You cannot serve your family some grilled hot dogs for Thanksgiving….NO, they want a full spread, and you have to spend the time and give the effort to crafting the perfect golden brown turkey…the creamiest mashed potatoes and of course at least two desserts to choose from because NO ONE can agree on one. Riding is NOT an option during THESE weekends….NO WAY!

If one of the above things make you see how sneaky fall is....then I need to explain to you that Fall is not only a thief of time and daylight but Fall is also a chemical warfare abuser. What am I possibly talking about? ALLERGIES. That's right....if the lapse in daylight and obsession to cook a perfect dead fowl do not stop you from riding...then the over abundance of pollen is sure to apply the brakes. My own doctor showed my chart to me noting that in the past 5 years I had been in every October between the 10th and 20th with a severe sinus infection. It's no wonder I have green mucus. Riding the trails with dusty, moldy leaves is bound to make anyone sick. You are not supposed to inhale that stuff. What starts out as a sinus infection, soon opens the petri dishes for all the other seasonal ailments like flu, upper respiratory infections, and any other illness that can stop a cyclist from leaving the couch. Fall knows where to get you...everytime!

I salute you Fall…you are a crafty thief worthy of legendary tales. Every super hero has an arch nemesis and while I do not have a cape…I can assure that if I could leap buildings in a single bound….YOU WOULD BE MY KRYPTONITE!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Harvest Homecoming-Where's the Hot Chocolate?

I was initially excited about the Harvest Homecoming ride in Indiana when I read about it in July. First, a scenic ride rolling through the hills of Floyds Knobs, Indiana followed by a fun afternoon of pumpkin picking—could the day be any better? Did I also mention a winery? However, the start of the morning was marred with one problem…it was 38 degrees at my house when the sun was coming up (7:20AM). Loading up the car, my teeth were chattering and I was hoping not to damage any of the preteen dental work my parents worked so hard to pay for. I had anticipated a “nip” in the air, so my bag was packed with an assortment of warm wear gear but after securing the bike to the car, I noticed my fingers turning blue so I raced back in the house and like a mad woman emptied out my warm weather drawer compiling every piece of cold weather cycling gear I had into one bag .

Once at the starting line, it was evident that there was not going to be a tropical warm front rip through the area anytime soon. I started to wish my bottles were filled with hot chocolate or coffee. Even the start of the ride was downhill which instantly created headwind and set the overall "feel" for the rest of the course. So basic math here….38 degree surface temperature+ head wind+ 10-15mph wind gusts= FREAKING COLD. Some cyclists were dire hardcore riders and stood there in their shorts and tee-shirts waiting for the start. I, however, double checked my thermal fleece gloves, my head buff that was covering my ears, and my thermal tights to ensure that there was minimal skin exposure. From there…it was what you would expect: FREAKING COLD!

5 miles in: Little or no feeling in toes or fingers, teeth still chattering. Large downhills caused groans among the 1000 or so riders. We huddled en masse to attempt to collect warmth. Our noses ran like faucets. My ride partners and I sought out taller riders to draft behind with little success bringing our core body temperature up.

10 miles in: You would think we would be a little warmer by now. NOPE! Part of course was in the shade and that shade really does reduce the temperature by a few more degrees (GREAT!). Spinning was the best option to keep your organs warm and we actually began to look forward to climbs because they warmed us up. Normally on rides, we discuss food...now we were wishing the SAG stops had hot chocolate (with or without marshmallows).

15 miles in: Okay, so we were FINALLY warmed up—kinda-- but we were afraid to stop for anything…bathroom, pictures, etc. We could not resist the lemonade stand overlooking the city though. Kids know just how to get ya! We took it upon ourselves to suggest some marketing advice as a girl bounced around in her hat and gloves...."can the lemonade and make some hot chocolate!" (We were on a mission).

20 miles in: Even with layers, cold mucus, and long hills we were still cold but not only cold….we could now feel our body ails. My fellow rider informed me her knee was on fire. I looked over enthusiastically thinking I could huddle around it if indeed flames were spewing from her joints…but she OBVIOUSLY only meant it metaphorically. Damn her for getting my hopes up but then we realized that pressing on for a longer ride would not be wise. We pulled in sometime after mile 25. It was still cold. Even after loading up the car again, we found our bodies working against us as we each took turns coughing and wheezing.

Being the troopers that we are, of course, we did not let this minor meteorological mishap detour us from the rest of the day, including pumpkin picking. The Harvest Homecoming is an excuse for ALL city dwellers (including ourselves) to drive themselves 20-miles outside the metropolitan and harvest our own ugly pumpkin (see above). Strolling through the fields, we were forced to take pumpkins with less than perfect complexions. However, we were finally warm. We could finally take off our gloves, head buffs and arm warmers. It did make for an interesting site pumpkin picking though (see below).

Monday, October 5, 2009

I am telling my couch off…but gently…

My warm, comfy couch is great for afternoon naps, reading, and nestling friends. We have been together for a couple of years now and it is usually the first thing I see when I walk into my home, welcoming me with soft down pillows. It has been there for breakups (it’s a good crying couch), for Golden Girl marathons, and drunken stupors which require me to lay down immediately. But fall is here and my couch has a NASTY habit…..the colder it gets, the lonelier the couch gets and it tries to kidnap me whenever I try to leave the house.

I noticed it when I started doing morning runs again. I would suit up in my appropriate layers and then just as I sat on the edge of the couch to tie my shoes, my couch would engulf my butt….sinking me slowly into warm comfort. Without even trying, the couch sucked me in and lulled me back to sleep before my first steps out the door. Even when I protest, the couch will try harder by dumping my favorite blanket in my lap. Oh, yeah…that subtle! STOP IT! GET AWAY FROM ME! I HAVE TO RUN!

Let’s face it….if you had to choose (1) a cold morning run that may result in cold mucus gathering on your upper lip and crusting over or (2) snuggling on a warm, comfy couch with my favorite blanket….THERE REALLY ISN’T A CHOICE HERE! Of course I want to stay with the couch but my body demands I exercise regardless of the weather, even in the cold. My couch is a persistent manipulator. It knows just how to make me feel in order to have me actually consider abandoning a cold trail run, or a windy bike ride. I warn you couch…I am a very independent girl…I do not need you…OH YES I DO!

Oh couch…when I come home from my frozen trudging or freezing leg spins, you are always number one. I collapse on you and rely on you to warm my frigid bones. Who do I call upon while waiting for the shower to get all hot and steamy? YOU….you couch! I know that spending hours alone in a cold house makes you just another decorative object but I promise you are more to me than “just a piece of furniture!”…promise. We have plenty of nights to look forward to…where we can spend quality time together. There are ample horror movies and bowls of coconut almond fudge ice cream to be shared. I need my space….I need to miss you. It’s just one season…soon it will be warm again, and you will enjoy breezy afternoons surrounding my sore, tired, over-trained body.