Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Short post, short ride.

I didn't ride home today. I called my dad to tell him to tell me to. He wouldn't. He asked why I needed to be told to. I told him I'd almost been hit yesterday by a left turn. I'm not scared, I'm just tired of being more anxious and wound-up after a ride than before. He agrees: rides should at least be emotion-neutral.

I left my bike at school and took MARTA home. I'll ride home tomorrow. I don't know how much more bike commuting I'll do, at least while school is stressful. I don't need to add to anxiety. I'll just ride on the weekends.

It's just not fun anymore. Atlanta, you're killing me.

Letter to Office of Constituent Services

Below is the e-mail I sent to the Mayor's Office of Constituent Services. My sister says I should have sent it to the mayor himself. If I don't get a (satisfactory) response from the director, I'll send it up the chain. Any updates will be posted here. 

I encourage anyone else who has had run-ins with MARTA or other problems with official vehicles to write letters to the governing agency demanding change, or letting me know so they can be compiled.

Edit (sent at 6:59pm)
Subject: Regarding Unsafe Drivers of City of Atlanta Vehicles


Dear Ms. Boone,

I'm writing to say something that should be obvious, so please forgive me my presumption. People who are permitted to drive City of Atlanta cars and trucks are highly visible and should be more, not less, concerned with following the rules of traffic law.

I write this because this morning I was passed too closely by a City of Atlanta truck (license plate GV19746, at 10:00a approaching East Lake Dr on 2nd Ave NE) while riding my bicycle. The driver of the truck may not have seen me, as he was following another car too closely. The other car passed me without incident. The City of Atlanta truck couldn't clear me before reaching the intersection, so he effectively cut me off.. This put my life in danger, as he could have hit me when he passed too closely or when he stopped too short. He also blocked my visibility at the intersection.

It shouldn't need to be said that those driving City of Atlanta vehicles carry the burden of modeling appropriate, lawful, and safe behaviors while driving those vehicles. The city and its employees are liable -- if not legally then politically -- for any accidents that occur. I am an educated, confident, law-abiding cyclist. I ask that you ensure that anyone who is given keys to City of Atlanta vehicles is similarly educated and law-abiding.

Thank you for your time,
Megan Lutz

A timely response from Ms. Boone at 8:30pm that same evening:

We will investigate. Thank you

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Ideas for Letters

Mrs. Short (5th grade teacher extraordinaire) was disappointed that I didn't go into writing. I'll throw her a bone today with some brainstorming.

Idea 1: A letter to the administrators of Georgia State University, which has come a long way in reputation.  It has a long way to go in actual education, however, if my own two eyes are to be believed (they are). Evidence: students regularly cross 5 lanes of traffic, against traffic and against traffic signals, like lemmings. They do this en masse, without any regard for the trucks, cars, and bikes barreling down on them along Marietta Street.

I understand crossing against a signal in the absence of any traffic. I do not understand crossing against a signal in the presence of high volumes of traffic. I super don't understand crossing against a signal in the presence of high volumes of traffic in multiple lanes in both directions when one is the straggler in a group and not in the bigger mass. What the hell are you thinking? Are you thinking? This isn't the African wilds, and you aren't a wildebeest. You are going to get crushed.

Idea 2:  A letter to the idiot riding a bike (possibly with headphones, I hadn't time to notice) on the sidewalk along North Avenue just now. I noticed him just in time to not hit him WITH MY OWN BIKE, as he didn't stop to see if there was oncoming traffic (there was, and it was I) before entering the crosswalk across Cherry Street. I was mid-turn and all the sudden there he was right in front of me. I had time to get out "dude, ride on the road", which he didn't appear to register, before riding away.

Again, what the hell are you thinking? Are you thinking? This isn't elementary school, and you aren't a child. You are going to hit someone.

Whenever I see people riding on the sidewalk I want to ask how old they are and what they want to be when they grow up, because maybe they're just overgrown 12-year-olds. Of course, when I was 12 I knew better than to ride on the sidewalk, but not everyone had the benefit of having my dad for a father.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Some balance

A lot of the time (it seems to me) I find myself telling cyclists to strike a balance, calling for respect for other road users and to remember that rights to the road come with responsibilities. The rule of thumb I often cite is "If you wouldn't do it in a car, don't do it on a bike." This is an easy reminder for not salmoning, hopping sidewalks, running lights, or otherwise "taking advantage" of the conveniences that seem so easily reached while on a bike. That's not what bikes are for: yes, they have the appearance of convenience and increased maneuverability, but responsible cycling does not allow for such nonsense.

Today, I'm turning that phrase on its head, and focusing on motorists. As I've said, there are multiple road users, and while I maintain that it is incumbent on cyclists to ride responsibly and predictably, the same is true for motorists and pedestrians. Today I say forget pedestrians and let's talk motorists (though it works for pedestrians, to an extent). The paraphrase: "If you wouldn't do it to a car, don't do it to a bike."

What does that mean?

To me, that means not making a right-hand turn in front of a bike stopping at a light in a traffic lane (as happened to me this morning). It means not squeezing by on the right in a single traffic lane to make a right turn (especially when there is no shoulder, like in a city, as happened to me this morning). For pedestrians, it would mean not crossing the street against the signal -- it would probably hurt less to get hit by a bike, but bikes are still part of traffic, still need a few feet of stopping distance, and ultimately it's illegal to cross against traffic. A lot of these things indicate selfishness, selfishness of time and perceived convenience.

There are a few other things I would like motorists to keep in mind when sharing the road with cyclists.

  • People can be startled, some pretty easily
    • a startled motorist may, at worst, swerve; cars don't fall over
    • a startled cyclist may swerve into passing traffic or fall over; this can be dangerous
  • When you honk, you honk at everyone
    • assuming horns carry over from maritime tradition, they are signals for docking and dark passage
    • horns in cars are for signaling your presence (in a one-lane tunnel, for example)
    • car horns may be the single most stressful stimulus for me as a city commuter, whether I'm on foot, in a car, or on a bike. Just stop freaking honking already, we get it. You have Important Places to be. 
  • Cyclists have pretty good situational awareness
    • drive predictably and follow the rules of the road
    • however well intentioned, don't honk as you overtake us, it's startling (we know you're there)
On point one, what startles me as a cyclist? Well, I was startled today by the driver who snuck up on my right between me and the curb to make a right turn onto a street. I didn't expect him there: this goes to predictability. Yelling or honking is startling. Anything unexpected is startling. We expect there to be cars and vehicular traffic, we expect there to be pedestrians. We expect to be treated as respected road users, so when things deviate from that expectation, we are startled. The sometimes open hostility towards cyclists in Atlanta makes me a little jumpy to begin with, so when additional, unpredictable (unexpected) behaviors occur, I am startled, making me less safe and more vulnerable. 

I think that about covers it. I guess the last thing is: don't park in or otherwise block the bike lanes, because screw you, that's why.

Saturday, September 28, 2013


I have a couple of topics on my mind today.

  1. cycling
  2. sunglasses
I will cover them in that order, and probably other things as well.

I rode this morning with the ever-smaller-and-ever-mighty fall team (today represented by C and D, joined by  C). This is the longest ride I've done since getting back in the saddle a couple weeks ago, and I felt OK. I have a bit of a headache now and am going to rest this afternoon. I opted out of the two loops because I knew I didn't have it in my legs (they would have added 10 miles and quite a bit of climbing), as I'm still easing myself back into this being active thing. After Thursday's commute and subsequent migraine, I think playing it safe was wise. 

I am a wise person.

Although I still use the cyclocomputer while riding, I have been simultaneously using the Strava app or the Garmin watch C loaned me and all the relevant details are saved and presented there in handy fashion. The five readers of this blog, I'm sure, will not be disappointed to see me change the format from including the list of stats here to instead pasting a link thusly.

This week has been rough for me. I had a really tough time academically, the details of which do not need to be included here. The short version: I need to be done with school. I need to graduate. I need support for that to happen. So, there. But, stress from that has caused me to be very unhappy, especially when on and around campus. Every day, it seems, is a "Jonah Day"; particularly those days when I have to interact with traffic in any form.

Back to Strava. One of the highlights of my week landed in my inbox this morning: an e-mail from "Alex at Strava". I had previously gotten an e-mail from said Alex, "calling all Atlanta cyclists", looking for Strava Ambassadors. As I am usually cheerful, full of goodwill to man, etc., I applied. I learned first thing this morning that I was accepted.

Atlanta, things are looking up! 

Of course, I need to figure out how to take things less personally, so that I can be less miserable while on this mission of cycling peace. 

On to my second point (sunglasses). When I was little, "sunglasses" was a tickle word. That is, if I ever said "sunglasses" I was on the receiving end of unrelenting tickles until I cried "uncle". And then I had to specify which uncle, and I have a lot of uncles to cycle through. Such was the life of a Lutz child.

But that's not the point of sunglasses today. No, instead, today I was thinking of the bizarre (and privileged, though I hate the word) irony about the transience of my sunglasses ownership/possession. I began this year as I did last year, in the possession of five pairs of sunglasses (and one pair of untinted cycling glasses, but they are not germane to the story). None of the pairs cost more than $14, because I am cheap and poor, which is a combination of traits that often go hand-in-hand. 

  • one pair (polarized, running/cycling) broke this spring
  • three pairs triggered migraines by being too tight, were scratched in the focal area beyond utility and were recycled over the course of the last three months
  • the last pair (my favorite) had no faults: no scratches, not too tight, and were sadly lost in transit last weekend
I have never just lost sunglasses. Even though I don't spend much on them, I still generally keep track of them (the low cost is, again, because I'm poor and because they are likely to get scratched). This pair just disappeared. Poof. (poof!) Gone.

Now I have zero sunglasses, which is challenging in a city as sunny as Atlanta, and for a girl who has always had at least one pair on her person at all times for at least a decade. Again, there are more pressing concerns in the world, but I find it odd that I can go from an overabundance to none so quickly. There must be a lesson in there somewhere, but I'm not sure how to tease it out.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Ugh, it's been ages

But not epochs. I don't believe in full-frontal exaggeration. I do, however, believe in bullet lists, so that's how I will present the things I have been doing besides posting updates. I have no doubt that, when the list is over, it will be quite a bit shorter than I originally expected.

In no particular order, in the last few months I have/have been

  • prepped/taught Social Psych (a class I took once, 10 years ago, providing my my only exposure to the subject)
  • prepping/teaching General Psych (a class I have never taken, so I'm out of my depth on some of the topics)
  • floundering on my dissertation
  • assistant-coaching the small-but-mighty fall cycle team for Team in Training
  • less active than I would like
    • 860 miles biking and running since the beginning of June 
      • 500 of those miles were in June
      • 32 of those miles were in September, and all since Sunday this week
    • marathoned all of Star Trek: The Next Generation on Netflix (and then Amazon because Netflix didn't have all seven seasons. Weird).
      • while knitting
      • and quilting
    • started Deep Space Nine: enjoy, not nearly as much.
  • dealing with un-managed "complicated migraine", but now it appears to be managed (hence the 30 miles since Sunday)
Of all those things on the list, I think the only one I really excelled at was the floundering. No one can suck at research quite like I can, I'm quite sure. But, now the medical stuff seems to be under control, I feel like myself again, and I have a few irons in the fire as far as research goes. Unfortunately, none of those irons causes the program to run any faster, so it will be another 24 hours or so to know whether they bear fruit (is that even a mixed metaphor?), but it's good to have something new to try, and to actually be excited and energetic about, well, anything. 

So I feel great, albeit very sleepy, and excited and motivated. I'm looking forward to being on the bike and running again, especially as falls comes around and starts to cool things off. It's going to be a good season.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Letter to MARTA

I just sent this e-mail to MARTA, regarding a (fortunately) minor situation this afternoon:

To Whom it May Concern,

I was riding my bike home from school today (Friday, 7 June), headed east on [road] at approximately 12:40p. I was riding in the middle of the bike lane, just west of [neighborhood]. I was passed much too closely by one of your buses, literally within inches of my handlebars. I was in the center of the bike lane, and the right wheels of the bus were on the bike lane stripe.  As the bus passed I noticed plenty of clearance (at least 2 feet) on the driver's side between the bus and the yellow traffic lines. There was minimal oncoming traffic.

There is a 3' passing law in Georgia, enacted a couple years ago, and this holds regardless of whether the cyclist is in a main traffic lane or a bike lane. I think it was the 24 bus, but it was bus 2348. Please remind that driver in particular, and the rest of your drivers in general, that just being a larger vehicle on the road does not give them the right of way. In fact, when safely overtaking more vulnerable, smaller, or slower vehicles, it is incumbent on the driver of the larger/faster vehicle to exercise more caution.

I am a regular MARTA user, both bus and train service, but I am frustrated by the sometimes reckless behavior your drivers display, both regarding other road users (too closely passing cyclists, motorists) and traffic signals (running stale red lights).

We are all users of the road, please educate (and re-educate) your drivers of that fact and maybe no one will get hurt.

Thank you for your time.


Three days after sending this e-mail I received a response. Note that now, 3 full months later, I have not heard about any resolution of this complaint.

Dear Ms. Lutz,

Thank you for contacting the MARTA Customer Care Center. I documented and filed your concern in our database for an investigation. I also forwarded your email to our Bus Operations Department for further investigation. It is never our intent to inconvenience our Patrons or daily Atlanta commuters with employee errors or safety issues. I sincerely apologize if this is the case during your bike ride home. I will certainly have this issue addressed for you.  Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Your reference number is ________. We will contact you when a resolution is provided to your complaint. I can assure you that MARTA is working around the clock to improve service and the overall customer experience.  If you have any additional questions, comments or concerns, please contact the MARTA Customer Care Center at 404.848.5000; please select 1 for English, 3 for the MARTA Customer Care Center, and then 3 again for a MARTA Representative. Thank you for allowing the MARTA Customer Care Center team to assist you today.


Mr. Jason Brooks

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Rights and Responsibilities

To operate a vehicle (i.e., a car, truck, motorcycle, farm equipment, horse-and-buggy and, yes, bicycle)  on the road, one has certain rights. It is these rights that are so often the point of contention for the debate (for lack of more appropriate descriptor) between motorists and cyclists, especially here in Atlanta (though probably especially in any dense, urban environment).

Neither "Side" is Completely Right (And It's a False Dichotomy, Anyway)

To be brief:

  1. Motorists who are not also cyclists often claim the right to the road by way of "paying their dues" in the form of gas taxes and licensing fees. There is also a common complaint that cyclists "have to play by the same rules" but don't, by running traffic signals, riding against traffic, and creating traffic jams by slowing down traffic in a given lane. There is a vehicular Darwinism, that if you are small and vulnerable, it's on you to protect yourself, and if there's an accident, let it be on your head. (It's been said by numerous such motorists that cyclists are "asking for it" when it comes to traumatic or deadly collisions with cars, regardless of true fault, to the point where "I didn't see them" is an acceptable defense in such cases). They point out that cyclists choose to ride bikes on busy roads and should accept the incumbent risks all for their very own.
  2. Cyclists often claim the right to the road as vehicles, but claim the inconvenience (and some may argue danger) of perfectly following all traffic signals is actually worse than following the letter of the law. Among people who ride bikes, there is inconsistency in what constitutes an appropriate stop at a stop sign, what is acceptable behavior behind long lines at lights or other controls, etc. Cyclists claim having the same rights as motorists, but some (many?) behave outside the bounds of those rights, to the consternation of other cyclists and motorists alike. Cyclists also rightly note that motorists also choose to drive, rather than exercise other options available for transportation.

Both sides need to recognize that with their rights come responsibilities, and both sides are doing the same thing: pounding the drum for their own rights while pointing out the failure of the others to uphold their responsibilities. It is uncommon for either side to acknowledge their own responsibilities or the rights of the other: though all four eventually get mentioned, it's finger pointing and self-aggrandizement.

The simplest way for this to work out is for everyone to behave predictably. Until the unlikely event where laws are changed, motorists and cyclists both need to behave the way people are expected to behave: stop at lights (yes, a ton of motorists run lights in this city, too); stop at stop signs (it's a non-starter to say that cyclists run stop signs, when the complete, 3-second stop is a rare beast for any vehicle); signal turns and lane changes; don't tailgate; don't hastily pass just to stop immediately; don't filter up past lines of traffic in the absence of a dedicated lane. Be predictable.

Yes, we have the right to the road, but with those rights come these responsibilities. These are rules of common sense, courtesy, respect, and, of course, the law.

Inconvenience != "Has it Coming"

There is no such thing as a right "not to be inconvenienced". Having grown up in relative farm country, I have spent a fair amount of time stuck on a road behind a tractor or other farm equipment. Inconvenient? Yes. Illegal? Nope. The driver of the tractor (for example), typically has his hazards on and drives as closely to the right shoulder as is safely practicable so that he may continue but also minimize the inconvenience. Does that mean I get to pass him if there's another car coming? Nope -- I don't have right of way.

In Atlanta there's a decided shortage of farm machinery, but still similar inconveniences: MARTA buses at bus stops, commercial trucks taking up an entire lane (and sometimes sidewalk) loading and unloading, and, yes, cyclists. Urban cycling, and law, being what it is, a cyclist need only ride as close to the right of the lane as is safely practicable. That does not always mean being in a bike lane, being in or on the shoulder, or even being to the right of a lane. It simply means that the cyclist is best suited to identify potential hazards for himself and should ride as safely as possible to avoid those hazards, which may not be visible or relevant to other road users. If that means impeding traffic, so be it. That does not absolve the cyclist from signaling lane changes or doing head checks for approaching (from behind) traffic. It's no different than any other slow-moving-vehicle. If a motorist (or even another cyclist) want to pass, they may not do so if there is not three-foot clearance around the cyclist, accounting for oncoming traffic.

Motorists do not get to make the decision about what is safest for all involved. If a cyclist is signaling a slow-down or a stop, that is the same as brake lights on a car. It is not an invitation to whip around, it is an indication that traffic is slowing and you should likewise slow down. It is your responsibility as a motorist in a 1+ ton vehicle to allow that cyclist the right of way and to slow. Cyclists typically have a clearer view of the road and hazards, and use hand signals the way cars use indicators to share that information.

Inconvenient? Perhaps, but even a casual bike rider can maintain his place in traffic without causing motorists behind him to miss the next light. That's the nature of poor traffic control, urban planning, and rush hour in Atlanta.

Cycling Advocacy's Inconsistencies Are a Major Problem

This is not to lay all blame at the feet of all motorists. Cyclists must cull their own herd for bad actors. I have said this for years, and it is still true.

As the marginalized population, some cyclists claim that "taking their rights" is the only way to ride safely. I respectfully disagree. With the current acrimony between cyclists and motorists in this city, continuing to ride in the illegal, unpredictable manner that is so often pointed to by motorists as dangerous and, to be sure, the reason cyclists are "asking for it", is only hurting whatever good will we may build as a community. If we, as a group, can't commit to behaving in a predictable and safe manner within the current law, we are costing ourselves and everyone else who rides a bike for any reason the benefit of the doubt should a collision occur.

Studies have shown that staking out an extreme (and in this case, unpopular with motorists and some cyclists) position is not an effective or efficient way to bring about change. In this instance, breaking the rules we're unhappy with, or that are inconvenient to us, is not going to get us a very sympathetic audience when the time comes. The rules are not unjust, these are not social justice rules. These are road rules.

You Knew 'Chology Was Going to Enter This Discussion Somehow

The spittle-flecked comments on any article about the death of a cyclist involved in a motor vehicle accident indicate that both sides are committing what, in psychology, is called the fundamental attribution error, except at the "group", and not individual, level. The fundamental attribution error, briefly, is that one attributes behavior exhibited by others to be a result of inherent, personal characteristics, whereas the behavior in oneself is attributed to external factors; that is, we as fallible human beings rationalize our bad behavior but demonize it in others.

For example, recently one of my rear blinkers on my car died. As I was driving at the time, I still had to get somewhere (home) where I could stop and having it checked/fixed. In the meantime, however, I was driving and still, by habit, indicating turns and lane changes, but those behind me couldn't see that. They would have thought I was any other schmuck changing lanes and making turns without signaling. It made me wonder how many times I've seen people change lanes without any apparent indication and assumed it was because they were irresponsible, ignorant assholes and not just unlucky at that moment. This is fundamental attribution error: I knew my signaling issue was external, but others likely attribute my lack of signal to my being a terrible driver and all-around person (because that's how angry we get when we drive and people aren't behaving predicably).

The same thing can be seen in any conversation between cyclists and motorists. Motorists often use the adjective "smug" to describe cyclists, and use words like "deliberate" and "intentional" to describe our slowing of traffic and apparent disregard for laws (see "asking for it", above). Moreover, all cyclists get painted with the same brush, though many clubs and groups take pains to educate their members as to what acceptable behavior is, and the relative number of bad actors is small to the overall population of casual and "serious" riders.

Cyclists, on the other hand, paint a picture of motorists as all being lazy, entitled, road-ragers (and often the retort "go get some exercise, you wasteful gas-guzzler", in some form, is thrown in for good measure), which is equally unfair. Many (I daresay  most) motorists are careful and cautious (perhaps over-cautious) around cyclists, and I am grateful to the many who give me space for lane changes when mine is blocked, when there is debris, a grate, or a hole in my way, or simply to make a turn from the left-most lane on a 5-lane, one-way street. I am grateful to the motorists who have the situational awareness to notice a well-lit, brightly-clad cyclists amid the chaos of rush-hour traffic, who don't ride my rear wheel, don't stop short in front of me, and give me my space when passing.

In Summary: We All Suck Could Do a Little Better

This has been a fairly meandering post. I meant to talk about rights and responsibilities. I'll try to bring it back to that here, in my summation.

Rights: we all have the "right" to use the road, under Georgia (indeed, all states') traffic law. ( We all have the right to the expectation of safe travel and respect of other legal road users.

Responsibilities: we all have the responsibility to behave predictably in our respective roles as road users. As motorists, it is our responsibility not to give cyclists a "scare" or to endanger other human beings exercising their rights (see above). As cyclists, we have the responsibility to ride predictably and represent our community in good faith, rather than flaunt the flexibility that traveling by bike affords: in short, if you wouldn't do it in a car, don't do it on a bike.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Publix Georgia Marathon - Preflections

In roughly one week I will be starting, in the middle of, and finishing my first ever full marathon (if we're going to be approximate in time, I can do everything at once). I rightly can say "first" because I would totally have this experience again. And again and again. I have had an amazing journey (blech, cliche) with the Team these last four months, and I have been reaffirmed in my decision to join the Publix Team at every GTS.

This morning's was no different. We set off for an easy 8 mile run through the hills and vales of Buckhead, and we made really good time. We crushed the run, on a beautifully cool and sunny day. Next week the weather is supposed to start off about the same but get to a high of 71F, which is rather toasty for a marathon. We expect to be done by noon, though, so we shouldn't hit the worst of it.

Let's see my season, by the numbers (includes today's training run).

Total miles run: 281.77
Total time run: 50 hrs 9 min 45 sec
Total weight loss (using this morning's measurement): ~5 lbs
Total calories consumed: not nearly enough. I'm so hungry. All. The. Time.
Total amount raised: $2,163.50

Total miles ridden: 439.66

I think I'm ready.

I include the bike time because that was primarily from Sundays when I was supposed to run or do cross, so it counts. I have 231.55 miles on the year, which is a slow start compared to last year, but I'm still on track for a 3000-mile year.

This is the most I have ever run, ever. I feel amazing! I blew my fundraising minimum out of the water. That sounds like a feat, but really all of that came from YOU, my many supporters (and far fewer readers). It's the same issue I have with conductors: they weren't the ones that made the music. I'm not the one who magicked the money - it came from incredibly generous and supportive individuals. And I am grateful.

So grateful that I'm making the explicit promise not to fundraise AT ALL until 2014. That means that, for those of you who like to make it a yearly habit, you only have one week to send some dollars my way before the chance is gone for a year.

To those of you who have already donated, thank you! You have helped make this ridiculous idea a reality, or you will have, come next Sunday.

And, the six of you that read this: thanks for that, too.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Atlanta Stinks

I had a great ride home today, a perfectly beautiful day with the low sun, clear sky, and cool air to breathe in deeply.

But not too deeply. Atlanta stinks, big time. Lately I've noticed that my throat is a little dry and scratchy, and it's been more pronounced since getting home. I also noticed that there is a great disparity in what is apparently acceptable exhaust for different cars in Atlanta. Perhaps it's different requirements for different years, or perhaps people are incredibly dishonest when it comes to emissions testing. Whatever the cause, it makes getting stuck at every light (which invariably happens at rush hour) a real drag, literally. It's like sucking on a tailpipe every stop, and it only improves marginally when the offending vehicle pulls away, because that crap does not dissipate very quickly. I found myself covering my mouth with my glove or arm for most of the lights because the stink and smell was so bad. There is no such alternative when actually riding and getting stuck behind such a vehicle over the course of several miles.

All this to say I'm considering using dust masks or bandannas to cover my nose and mouth on these downtown excursions, because I was nauseous after only 36 minutes in varying levels of traffic and exhaust. I was surprised that I wasn't coughing up black or breathing sooty air.

Besides the soot, Atlanta is still pretty smelly. Riding the path near the Highlands got me out of the exhaust channels (for the most part) but introduced a strong, strangely rubber cement-smelling stink that lasted for a while.

Then, of course, the smell of fish fry and hipsters in L5P. It was a long day.

I really do like riding, but this is ridiculous. I totally believe the study that found that people who commuted to work outdoors, because of the exposure and increased breathing rate, had more pollutants in their lungs (in ppm) than motorists. I feel like I ate a block of coal today.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

First week of taper -- no change

Yesterday was our first official week of taper, so we ran "only" 8 miles. Training for an endurance event really warps one's perspective, I've noticed.

We ran out of Galloway School, near Chastain Park, actually turning around at the church we often start from. The reason for the different location was the All-sport GTS, a notorious cluster made worse yesterday by what here passes for snow, a cold and brisk wind, and a decided  lack of sun.

In typical fashion, I misread the directions, adding on an extra 1.25 miles to the route, but newfound running buddy, S, from the Cobb team was indifferent and we kept up pleasant chatter throughout the entire run. At the end we separated, I stretched and changed into cold, dry clothes, and made my way down to the picnic. It was very, very windy, so many people didn't stick around. I was waiting for the cycle team to finish, and they had a rough day. Chastain is located in Buckhead, and I climbed 1300' in 9 miles, so the cycle team, with the added challenge of wind and cold (it's easier to manage those elements on foot), endured hilly routes for 25 miles.

Everyone made it back safe and sound, and it sounded like there were good stories. I'm glad it's over, we've had our share of icky weather the last month, as far as training goes, so I hope that means the weather gods will smile on us for the actual race.

Average pace: 10:36 (10:44) min/mi
Distance: 9.25 mi
Time: 1:38:00 (1:39:16)
Elevation: 1,362 ft

I did the run in the new shoes again and had no problems, so I'm feeling pretty good about wearing them on race day. I have to remember not to over-tighten the laces, which is very easy on these shoes. I felt great.

No picture, because I'm forgetful. I could take a photo of what it looks like outside today, because it's the same as yesterday (windy, overcast, "snowy", cold), but there's no human interest in that.

I didn't ride this morning (see the weather, above), but need to get out and do something today. They say it's supposed to be sunny this afternoon, but I'll believe that when I see it.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Longest run ever, until the BIG DAY

Ladies and gentlemen, let the record officially show that on Saturday, 23 February 2013, this Urban Cyclist ran 20 miles.

Read that again.

(20 miles!)
The happy group before our respective longest runs.
C and I (and M and J, but they were with us only off and on) set off in the morning with the intention of taking it relatively easy and only doing 5:1::run:walk intervals. C's knee had been bothering her during the week, so we also opted from the start to walk down any hills. On this route (at the River) there were a lot of hills and slow descents. We also stopped at all but the first/last water stop to stretch and refuel. Our total elapsed time was 4:40, but when one considers the two bathroom breaks and the absolute stand-stills at the water stops, that's not too shabby.

When one considers that our total *moving* time was only 4:10, one is much happier. Especially if I am said one. As our plan for the marathon is to never stop (except for possible nature breaks) and to at least walk through water stops, I think we'll be in very good shape.

Average pace: 12:16 (13:44) min/mi
Distance: 20.44 mi
Time: 4:10:45 (4:10:44)

Six miles in, still smiling like idiots.
P and D turned around at this point, the rest of us chugged on.
As a matter of fact, though my feet hurt at the end of the run, I felt absolutely great. C said my form was good at the end, and after a shower and short nap I felt as good as new. So good, in fact, I took the Giant out on the ride on Sunday where I had my best ride of the season (in some of the best weather of the season) and felt only a little tired in the legs.This running and training has been a lot easier than I expected. 

Thank you, Team in Training! Thank you, to all my wonderful friends!

Let the taper begin!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Last weekend - an effort in madness

I've spent every day since last Saturday reminding myself to post an update, and every day until today (Friday!) not getting around to it.

Today that changes.

It's not that Saturday's run was mind-blowingly long or fast, or that Sunday's ride was a personal record. It's that last weekend all together was crazy.

I used the gift card from the exceedingly generous (and exceedingly anonymous Shoe Fairy) to buy new kicks at Big Peach. My first run in 10 days was on Tuesday, and I wore the shoes. It was only a 4-mile jaunt, but my calves got really tight, my right arch hurt, and I thought the shoes were at fault. I ran 6 on Wednesday (still very tight) in the old shoes, and because I was still soooo tight and sore on Thursday, I didn't run at all.

That brings me to Saturday (in my old sneakers). It was a partly sunny day, which worked in our favor because it was also about 36F, which is to say chilly. I was dressed just right for the occasion, however, in knickers, a light wool base, a short sleeved top, and mitten/gloves to keep the fingers warm. I felt perfect the whole time.

C sporting her fancy new hat before the run.
These photos really emphasize how short I am.

C was still making up extra miles she missed from her injury a few weeks back, but we ran my ten together before she did another five on her own. We had a great time, as she had just won a TNT hat (which just that very morning she said she wanted) and had brainstormed an idea of having the man, the myth Will Ferrell come to the marathon in March, as he is a known runner and all-around great guy, and will happen to be in the area for Anchorman 2. It's kismet!

Anyway, we set out to average an easy pace so as not to hurt our little tootsies, and we did just that. I enjoyed her company and we both enjoyed a hot cup of soup and sandwich afterward.


Average pace: 11:12 (11:51) min/mi
Distance: 10.23 mi
Time: 1:54:35 (2:01:12)

We decided that we were going to let social media help us on our Will Ferrell quest. So, Mr. Ferrell (or his minions), if you are reading this, please consider running the Georgia Publix Marathon on 17 March. You'll be local and still coming off training for your half a few weeks ago. Even if you don't run, we would love for you to make an appearance at the Team in Training tent at the finish, where we promise not to stare or geek out too embarrassingly. Between us, we've raised over $3,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society since November -- how much more would you like us to raise in the next couple weeks for it to be worth your while?

Or, if you can be bribed, I have an original PlayStation that you can just have.


Sunday morning was cold. Very cold. I mean cold. It was so cold, it was a frigid 28F out and I only entertained the notion of riding because it was also incredibly sunny and because I knew I could bundle appropriately. Special mention goes to G-man for his turtle and gloves, because it would have been undoable without those.

Can you tell I'm smiling? There's terror in those eyes.
Despite the high number of positive RSVPs to the group, I didn't anticipate a lot of people actually at the ride, and I was right. Only the lovely B joined me, also swaddled in her southern winter finest. I would have asked for a bystander to get a picture of the two of us, but there were no bystanders in that weather, and certainly none without gloves on to work the phone's camera.

I'll point out here that none of the Tough Guys showed up. B and I felt pretty smug on that point.

As it was just the two of us, and B deigned to ride out to the rock and back with me (we both wisely skipped doing any loops), and suffered together through the cold and very windy day. We almost had our bikes blown out from under us, and the wind was more temperamental than usual, changing direction at the drop of a hat. We suffered through it, however, and were rewarded with a balmy 36F and calm brunch back at LPM. Sitting in the sun was amazing: it was like sitting in a hug. It was so warm and beautiful, and I can't believe we'd considered sitting indoors (the only reason we didn't was because LPM was hop hop hopping).


Maximum speed: 34.0 mph
Average speed: 14.0 mph
Distance: 27.89 mi
Time: 1:59:18

I had a fantastic time riding with B -- it hadn't happened in a looooong time, and I think that riding with her is part of the reason I turned in so fast a time (that and the wind, though I swear it was never at our backs). We got to catch up and just talk, and I had a wonderful time "pulling" her, though when she took over, it was no work at all for her to pass me and get in front.

She's so kind to let me pretend.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Last week and this week: An uneventful twofer

Last week I ran my longest mileage ever. EVER. I ran 16 miles with J, whom I first mentioned all the way back in December when P and I did 5 (6?) together from the church. She hadn't been back to a GTS since then because of bronchitis. Ugh. I'm glad she was there last weekend, though, because I wouldn't have had anyone to run with at my pace, and she was great company and very funny.

My left foot had started to bother me the Tuesday before (4 days) the long run, but I didn't think much of it and did my TR runs as planned. It made it easier for J and I to shuffle along.

**Note: I have been saying all season that I've been running these distances. In reality, I am quickly jogging and/or shuffling on these routes. The real runners drop my ass immediately, and I'm OK with that.**

Anyway, J and I headed out, chatting most of the time and sometimes I was quiet and she put on her music. It was a gorgeous day. A bit of a nip in the air (I wore full tights), but sunny and perfect to finish. My foot felt OK to start, but not great, and progressively started to hurt more throughout the run. I still did the whole thing, even the little hill at the end (and an extra out-and-back in the park to get the full mileage), so that gets chalked up as a win. I think we paced each other really well.


Average pace: 10:56 (11:04) min/mi
Distance: 16.09 mi
Time: 2.55.51 (2.58.19).

16 miles never looked so good.

I think I'm going to be all right for the marathon. My foot was really sore and a bit swollen when I got home, so I RICEd it that day and the next. Riding the bike didn't bother it (the snug and stiff-soled shoes helped), so I maintained my usual KSR leadership the next morning. I took the whole of this past week off from running to let my foot rest and heal, and instead rode my bike to school on T and back on W (bad weather on Thursday kept me from doing anything outside besides walk to and from the MARTA stop). The rain boots on Thursday hurt my foot because of pressure on the sore point, but since then it's felt closer and closer to 100%.

Yesterday the TEAM was scheduled to run 18 miles, but I knew that would be too much on a foot that wasn't perfect yet. I had originally planned to do 10 with C, and then 4 on my own, and then, in a fit of good thinking, didn't run at all and instead joined the cycle team for their first GTR of the summer season. I rode 16 easy miles and had no pain whatsoever in my foot during the ride or the rest of the day. My usual KSR this morning also felt good (though with very tired quads), and again, was mostly painless. There is some tenderness, but for the most part I think I'm good to go.

An anonymous Shoe Fairy gifted me a card to Big Peach, so I'm going to consult with the lovely staff there and get new sneaks to run the long days in for the remainder of the season, and I plan to start back with run training again on Tuesday, with whatever the scheduled distance is.

The marathon is SO CLOSE. I can DO THIS.

I'm very excited.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

This week and last week - what a trip

I'll start out with this: I've been bad about my Wednesday runs. I have a hard time talking myself into going up to Brookhaven to run, but even this week I was already up there (and dressed and ready to go), but didn't do it. This has to change.

That said, I'm still pleased with my running. Last Saturday I ran my longest distance yet, with a notable hill on Johnson Ferry Rd. I also ran most of the second half of that run by myself -- I'm such a tough cookie. I've been doing the Sunday bike rides (slowly) and getting the Tuesday/Thursday runs in (will some turkey talk to get me out there), but I haven't yet managed to swing riding to school those days in addition to running. It's hard knowing that I'll be riding home in the dark on Tuesdays because of when lab gets out (MARTA is a reasonable alternative for that portion of the commute), and hard to get the timing right for a 45-minute commute one way plus a 40-50 minute run. As the days get longer, I suspect this will be less of a problem, but for now I'm letting it get in my way.

Last Saturday's stats:

Average pace: 10:20 (10:29) min/mi
Distance: 13.98 mi
Time: 2.24.42 (2.26.22)
I'm not posting HR stuff because it's still incredibly off, even with the new positioning and batteries. I'm not sure what to make of it.

I wanted to jog around the parking lot to round out the 13.98 to 14, but I was one of the last people in and everyone was in the lot cheering for me, and I didn't want to look like a jackass. We ran at the river, so it was pretty and nice. The sun balanced the coolness in the air perfectly.

This morning we did a step back in our distance (the last, I believe, until we taper), and did 10 miles out of the church. I ran with D and P (and T! A great kid) for the first three miles or so, but then the two routes split and I was by myself for another three miles or so. I caught another group of ladies who were happy to let me join them and chat away, so I finished strong and in good company.


Average pace: 10:42 (10:51) min/mi
Distance: 9.94 mi (because I forgot to start the watch until about a quarter mile in)
Time: 1.46.18 (1.47.54)

As proof, the Garmin said I averaged 178 bpm over the 10 miles, which is nearly 90% of my max. This, clearly, cannot be.

Taken before the run. I feel like an asshole, because T took the picture
and is therefore not in it. He ran 6 miles today, what a trooper!
All told, I felt really good today. I was missing C, though, who has been ordered not to run for at least two weeks to ward off an imminent injury. : (  I'm looking forward to riding with her tomorrow, though, and hope she's doing better.

Finally, for those of you who think I've given up completely on fundraising now that I've met my minimum, there's a fun game coming down the pipes this week, so keep your eyes peeled. If you don't need an incentive to give, however, just click on the link to the right now and give me your money, no questions asked.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Last week and a day - all in one place (here)

Last week was one of ups and downs, as far as training is concerned. I felt pretty OK on the ride on Sunday (the 6th), but not OK enough to do any loops around the park. It was chilly enough where I just wanted to turn right back around, though the sun came out long enough for brunch to be enjoyable. I ran without fanfare on Tuesday and then again on Wednesday, though on Wednesday I came up a couple of miles short of what I was supposed to do because of the group I ended up running with.

I did not run on Thursday (I didn't feel amazing).

Saturday the marathon training distance was 12 miles, but I - like so many people on the team - was schedule to run a 15k the next morning and so I ran 4 miles with the half-marathoners. C ran the full 12 and did great and we had a lovely time eating lunch at Panera.

Saturday stats:
Average pace: 10:38 (10:42) min/mi
Distance: 4.00 mi
Time: 0.42.52
Average Heart Rate: I think the battery in the strap died because it didn't record anything.

I changed the battery out Saturday night, thinking that that could also have caused some of the weird readings from the last few excursions.

After four solid miles in the heat and humidity we were soaked.
I'm especially excited because, while I was waiting for C to finish her run, I talked with Coach K about cycling during the week, specifically adding my commutes to and from school to the training schedule. I had been worried that it would be considered to be too much to do both cycling and running on TR, but she said that, given my solid base, it wouldn't be a problem, especially since the commute is fairly low-key. She also said that on Thursdays after longer (8- and 10-mile) runs on Wednesday to just do the ride to allow for some recovery, but otherwise it wouldn't be an issue and would probably make me even stronger and better on the runs. I'll take that!

On Sunday I ran my second-ever organized race, which was also the second-longest distance I've ever run: the Hot Chocolate 15K. It was very well organized and there were hundreds of volunteers. I was actually pretty impressed. The sweatshirt is awesome (I've worn it every day since I got it, and in fact am wearing it right now) and the hot cocoa at the end was surprisingly welcome, given the 70 degree temperature. It was, indeed, a hot chocolate race. LKK from high school came up from Columbus, GA on Saturday to spend the night before the race (she did the 5k and then in the afternoon ran ANOTHER 5k in Columbus), and it was nice to catch up in a non-timed or hurried manner.

Sunday stats:
Average pace: 10:25 (10:30) min/mi
Distance: 9.44 mi
Time: 1.38.19 (1.39.08)
Average Heart Rate: 183 (238).

My heart rate was all over the place again, right before the race started it had gotten down to the 80s and 90s, which was believable given the excitement of the afternoon, but I still can't believe that it averaged over 200 for the first two miles (according to the chart). After about four miles it appears to have been much better calibrated. I've adjusted its positioning, changed the battery, washed the strap, wet the strap, tightened the strap, everything I could think of. I do wonder if it gets thrown off by signals from other heart rate monitors.

I had a good time with the run, felt great during it and had some kick at the end (which to me is a sign of energy well expended). I was very hungry during the race, so I was glad to have both worn a cycling tank with a pocket on the back and put a pack of honey stingers in it. D and P ALSO had a great event, running the entirety of the 15k despite a rash of injuries and illnesses since the holidays that had severely limited their training time.

Apparently it's only a cycling trick to bring a complete change of
clothes for after an event. I got oddball looks, but was dry and warm.

I was a little disappointed with the finisher's mug, because it was compartmentalized (which did, at least, make carrying the hot cocoa and fondue easier) and plastic, not an actual (ceramic) mug. I threw mine out because it was sticky and there wasn't room for it in my bag and I was going to ride MARTA where (unknown to me ahead of time) a man would make an incredibly surprising and inappropriate gesture toward me.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Read it and weep: A week of firsts

I kicked the new year (2013) off right this week by going to bed around 11 on NYE and running my first ever 10k the next morning, in conditions that can be generously described as suboptimal. It was very rainy and very wet and rather chilly, but I made it and it was great. I averaged in the mid-10s and came in 20/38 for my age group. I followed that cold, wet effort up with two 3-mile days on Wednesday and Thursday. I was grateful for the rest on Friday, though we walked the doggies for 2 miles, jogging some of that because Charlotte was feeling frisky.

Then, Saturday.

Oh, Saturday, what a day it's been. I ran with C and we had a great time, despite cursing the cue sheet and sparse map. The wretched directions were the focus of our abuse for the simple fact that we got lost. We got lost four and a half times. Let me count the ways:

0.5 We followed the half marathon team (running a scant 3 miles) for about a tenth of a mile before I realized we were to have gone straight out of the lot instead of turning right. As this was due to following a crowd, and as a coach had also done the same thing, it only gets counted as half lost.

1.5 We ran too far down Peachtree, missing the turn for Rivers Rd. Whoops. The cue had us getting to Ptree Battle anyway, so we backtracked a bit (about a block) to it and then pick up the course there.

2.5 We overshot a turn around point after a loop around the park. The directions had us turn left on a road we'd already done, and then turn back at a side street that we didn't see. We recognized the loop as the one we'd just done and as not being the way back to the water stop, and realized we'd overshot the sidestreet by about a quarter-half mile.

3.5 We missed Rivers Rd. AGAIN (it's labeled Habersham where we would actually pick it up), and took Ptree Battle back to Peachtree instead.

At this point we had already resolved just to run the 10 miles we were supposed to do and then walk back to the church, otherwise knowing we would be running 11-11.5 miles.

We hit 10 miles, start walking, triple-check the directions back, and 4.5 overshoot Valley Rd. by about 1/3 of a mile. Seriously, it's a syndrome with us. We had to ask a cabbie, and then a local, how to get back.

Yes, we had a map and directions with us. No, it's not as easy following directions when running, because your head is bouncing and the paper is bouncing and it's really easy to miss a line and to miss a line 5 times. The map wasn't helpful because all of the streets weren't labeled or included.

Fortunately, we had only averaged an 11 minute mile while running, so we were energetic and in pretty good spirits for all of this. The high hit me while we were missing the Valley Rd turn and I thought the whole situation was hilarious. We finally made it back, worried we were going to be scolded for not having our phones and for getting stupidly lost. The coaches were there and thought the whole thing hilarious (or at least acted like they did, thank goodness). As I also thought it was hilarious, it suited my mood perfectly.

I'm am thankful for C's company and conversation on the run, we went a lot slower than she (and I, honestly) would have liked, but I felt great, still had some left at the end, and I had a great time. Next time, we bring our phones.


Average pace: 10.47 min/mile (10.58)
Distance: 10.2 mi
Time: 1.49.30 (1.51.31)
Average Heart Rate: not worth putting, because it said over 200, and I'm still alive so that can't be right.

And that, friends, is how I ran my longest distance ever (to date).

We came in so far behind the rest of the team that everyone who had
met for breakfast had already eaten and left when we got there.