Saturday, June 28, 2014


This blog (shudder, I hate that word) needs a focus. It has existed primarily as a journal of my training rides (and runs) leading up to different events.

That is boring. I want it to be more.

I have no delusions of being a BikeSnobATL as it were. I don't have any particular insights, and I would like not to continue rehashing the "can't we all get along" approach to riding the roads in Atlanta.

That's why this has been so quiet lately. Riding GTRs isn't particularly interesting and is relatively uneventful (And I don't have pictures to share). I don't have new and wonderful thoughts about the state of cycling. And all of my rides are held on Strava.

I don't know what to do with this space.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride (ever?)

I've said it before: I haven't been on all the bike rides in America to know whether the ride around Lake Tahoe really is the most beautiful, but it is easier to imagine uglier ones. This year's event was not a disappointment. Early in the week leading up to the ride, the forecast called for cold temperatures in the morning, which is typical, but also a decent chance of rain. There had also been snow in Stateline, NV, so we packed clothing for two days' of riding for literally all weather types: two pairs of tights, two pairs of arm warmers, a winter jacket, a rain jacket, a wind jacket, knee warmers, two wool base layers, etc.... When we arrived to the team hotel on Friday just before bike pickup (after several days in the Bay Area), another teammate informed us that the forecast had done a 180: sun was predicted for the entire weekend, with highs in the low 70s and lows in the mid 30s. In short: perfect.

The team's bikes all arrived on time, even if all of the team didn't (coordinating travel among 30+ people and their respective families is a hassle), and there weren't any mechanical issues. The new transportation company was professional and had us in and out relatively quickly. Team in Training's packet pickup wasn't crowded Friday afternoon, either, so we were able to move through with some ease. I even bought my first "bazaar" fundraising item: a TNT buff, and I couldn't be happier. Perfect.

The Georgia Chapter has a long and storied history of renting a catamaran for a champagne cruise on the lake on Friday evening to kick off the weekend's festivities, and this year was no different. It was a windy evening, making keeping birthday candles on Curtis' birthday doughnuts lit a challenge (more easily managed below deck). We had two birthdays to celebrate, which we did in style. The clear, cloudless sky made for a beautiful backdrop for the first of many team pictures over the weekend. Perfect

Photo courtesy Kathy Empen

Saturday mornings in Tahoe usually call for a team breakfast and then a shakedown ride out to Inspiration Point (overlooking Emerald Bay) and back. This year, we had a team BIRTHDAY breakfast, courtesy of Curtis and in honor of Clarice, and then.... quite a bit of downtime. Our shakedown rides are usually in the morning, but this time we left closer to noon. The advantage: warmth. The disadvantage: traffic and thinner air (but breakfast had settled). We rolled out in our little groups, I riding with Team Tripod (Kathy and Al), and scouted the first 13 miles of the century we would ride the next day. The climb up to Inspiration Point is a sneaky devil: I thought I'd remembered what it looked like from when I was there in 2012, but we started ascending and I felt great. I figured my memory must have been off. Then we got to where we started climbing in earnest, which looked exactly like I'd remembered it, and realized that I was really just an idiot instead. These things happen. Got to the top, had pictures taken, and it was, of course, beautiful. 

Photo courtesy Kathy Empen
The ride back down was dicey as usual, because of the tight, technical turns and traffic, but once at the bottom we zipped right back into town, splitting up depending on where everyone planned on eating. I represented Strava well in my kit, and received a "hey! nice Strava kit!" in the lobby of the hotel for my efforts. As a good ambassador, I thanked the man and entered the elevator. Perfect.

At the inspiration dinner, the Georgia Chapter sat at its 3.5 tables and ate an inordinate amount of food and stole an inordinate amount of bananas in preparation for the next morning. The national Team coordinator for the event told us that the 700+ participants at the ride that year raised $3.3 million for LLS. One man, in the course of his time with Team, has raised over $500,000. I can't even imagine. The coordinator then introduced the top 10 individual fundraisers. When she got to the top two, she called a man named Lance Shaw and Georgia's own Don Schaet to the stage. Lance's son, Brian, had been helping hand out hats to the top fundraisers, so we knew this was a special fellow. 

Photo courtesy Curtis Hertwig
  • Lance, a first-time participant, had had a goal to raise $37,454.13 (the average cost of a single chemo injection for his son). He ultimately raised $55,850, and in doing so he had his name linked to a research portfolio of his choosing (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia) and was an incredibly inspiring, humorous, and moving keynote speaker. Lance was "only" the number 2 fundraiser for the event. He told us about his son's diagnosis, how he'd explained why a shaved head made him a badass, detailed his progress from a bike novice to a soon-to-be century cyclist and how he found Team in Training.
  • Don, for at least the second time in his illustrious fundraising career, was the number 1 fundraiser, having raised (as of this writing) $60,029.03. Don chose as his portfolio pediatric research, and in his short time at the microphone told us his reason for raising so much this year. I'll paraphrase, but believe you will still get the main idea. This winter, Don realized he had raised $200,000 in his 20 or so years with TNT. At the age of 82, he knew this was going to be his last event. He also knew that, by making a goal of $50,000 this season he could not only reach a quarter million dollars raised for LLS, but he could create a legacy, to inspire us to set high goals and to continue to raise money for LLS in amazing ways. Don is an incredible, selfless man. 
Photo courtesy Curtis Hertwig
All together, the evening's dinner was--of course--perfect.

Sunday morning started early: we were expected to start the ride at around sunrise, which mean several layers of clothes as it was still about 31°F. I planned on carrying most of the food I would eat over the course of the day, as well as not dropping any of my clothing at any of the stops. This meant strategy, and I pulled it off brilliantly. The picture below of Team Tripod shows the progression of clothing removal over the course of the ride, and the clever viewer can infer the change in the height of the sun.

Photos courtesy Kathy Empen
The ride itself was fairly uneventful. I started off a bit cranky, and my legs weren't super cooperative (perhaps because of the lie of the climb the day before), but after about 20 miles (the middle picture above) I found myself and things were right with the world. The ride to and from Truckee was as nice as I remembered, though the headwind into Truckee remained a headwind coming out (explain that). We rode with another group of Peaches that was struggling for a little bit (one of them had a broken spoke), meaning I got to take my time, crawl into my head, and compose a song for Al (in the middle of all the pictures above and for whom Team Tripod is dubbed). I also got to look around and enjoy the splendor of the scenery around us. 

Aside: anyone who says the ride out to Truckee is ugly is only saying that because they are comparing it to the rest of the ride around the lake. Compared to anywhere else, it is beautiful, with the river and woods all along one side of the road. It is a little slice of heaven. 

The rest of the ride was marked, for our little group, only by the addition of Graham (who got a flat on the way out of Truckee, giving us time to enjoy the river that much more) and Dennis. 

Photo courtesy Kathy Empen
More people means less time spent pulling, so we had a nice paceline headed into Tahoe City, and into lunch. As with last time, mile 60 approached in no time, because this ride flies by at "Fred Woohoohoo! Speed", sometimes even literally. Whizzing down the backside of Inspiration Point and then again down the long descent off Spooner (40.3 mph max, because I ran out of gears and there was wind coming off the water) was amazing, and my voice was rough from calling out to everyone as I passed them "On your left!". We rode in, about 13 of us (nearly half the Georgia team), together, and waited for the rest of our teammates to finish. Perfect.

Photo courtesy Kathy Empen
Here's the ride on Strava. You should do it next year, it may not always be pretty, but I bet it'll be pretty close to perfect.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Perfect Weekend

If I were an old-timey figure-skating judge, I would give this weekend a 6 (a first-place ordinal!), it was just that good. Yesterday the Team went up to Rome, GA for Up the Creek Without a Pedal, an annual ride that is both incredibly well organized and supported. The Team does this ride so that new cyclists have the valuable experience of a mass start and riding with non-GA-TNT-trained cyclists before event weekend. I had the pleasure of riding with J, J, A, K, and C for the whole 68 + 3-mile ride.

Let me tell you, despite the knot in my back and my crabbiness from having fitfully slept only 4 hours (on the couch) the night before, and despite the on-again, off-again drizzle and driving rain, it was a great ride. Possibly the best ride I've had in years. I was worried that I would be inside my head and be General Crankypants, but I wasn't (maybe I was outwardly, but I didn't FEEL like it). We just rode, and I wasn't thinking about pace or anything else, especially after I got to pee at the first SAG. It was an amazing day, and I could have kept going for quite some time after.

Strava details (excluding the +3 miles because they were on a path and dropped my average, which I just couldn't abide) are here.


This morning's ride was another perfect day. I got to ride with L (who was on a recovery day, having done 105+3 yesterday at 18+ mph) and D, who also had a stellar ride in the rain. We didn't dawdle, but we didn't hammer it out. I was in a great mood. I've been in a great mood since getting on the bike yesterday morning. I wonder if this is what it's like to be done with school. I'm not carefree (I need a job), but the constant anxiety of teaching and dissertation and that pressing anxiety is gone, and I wonder if that's the difference. I have just been very happy this weekend after the rides, happier than I've been after rides in a long time.

Strava details are here.

It could, of course, simply be that I had the perfect weekend. Good for me.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Wet and Windy Weekend Recap

This weekend brought  a mix of weather that I hope not to have to ride in again. The original forecast early last week was for rain on Monday (we got it, I was in the garden when it came) and then warm and sunny through the weekend. At some point that changed, and on Saturday we ended up riding in a cool, constant drizzle -- with head winds to boot -- for our 60-mile GTR. The only positive thing I have to say about the ride is that I felt physically good going in and was able to keep up with the faster group (who weren't at their best, so we found a happy median), and it was good training for Tahoe, in the event that the late winter rears its ugly head out there.

It was a seriously ugly day. I don't mind riding in the rain when I start out dry, but it is quite another thing to get out of a warm, dry car and get wet immediately. I wasn't sure I would ever get dry again, and I was wringing out my gloves by the first SAG stop simply by making a fist with each hand.

The Strava details can be found here.

Still, I had a great time riding with J (which never happens because she is so freaking fast and I have been so abysmally slow this season), and an even better time changing into dry socks afterward.


Fortunately for us Atlanta cyclists, Sunday was a much lovelier day. The forecast called for gusts of up to 20 mph, and instead we had sustained winds of seemingly that high. And, what with its being Atlanta, they were also always headwinds. My legs were absolute toast after the previous day's effort, so C and I took it relatively easy out to Stone Mountain and back, both of us happily opting out of the loops with absolutely no regrets. She is going to be out of commission for at least the next few weeks, so I'm going to be riding by myself on Sundays it seems, as there is no keeping up with the A group and I am the pokiest.

Strava details are here.

Although it was a holiday, we still had a decent group join us for the ride. I enjoyed the ride despite the wind, and I can feel myself getting stronger, even if it isn't always evident in the stats. I am still struggling on anything resembling a climb, which is natural, but as Graham says, the only way to get better is to practice.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

New Route, New Post

On Saturday, for the first time ever, the cycle team rode out of Harbins Park, which is out by Dacula. It is beautiful there, with not insignificant climbing, gorgeous country scenery, not too much traffic, and -- for the most part -- great roads. The weather was a little hot for my tastes, getting up into the 80s without much shade (Georgia can't make up its mind about spring this year, it seemed it was going to go full-on summer this weekend, but there is a freeze advisory for tonight), but all told it was a beautiful day. I felt great on the ride, never really overexerting myself except for a short bit at the beginning where I waited with J while he shed his jacket, and then we worked to catch up with the main group. After that, and some huffing and puffing, I felt fine the rest of the time. I managed my nutrition and hydration well and don't think I would do anything differently. I'll just say again, it was a really good ride.

It could be because it was the first really sunny or really hot day we've had this year, or just that I was stuck in the sun and heat without shade for several hours after riding (though I kept hydrating) waiting for the last few riders to come in, but it was while we were in the parking lot and on the way home that a migraine hit. We got home, I took some meds, buried my face in a pillow, and felt infinitely better after a short rest (I don't even think I napped).

The Strava details can be found here.


On Sunday, wary of another headache (I've had a few, but am pretty sure they were more hydration related), I looked frantically for the preventative meds and couldn't find anything but an old prescription. Knowing that I had a recent one, but not remembering for the life of me where it could be, I took an old pill, crossed my fingers, and set out. It was a great ride. We took it somewhat easy, didn't loop around the mountain, didn't set any PRs or break any sound barriers, and came back to an amazing breakfast at LPM. Yummers. It was a small group on Sunday, and there was pretty light traffic headed to and from (and in) Stone Mountain. We chalked that up to multiple spring breaks and the Dogwood Festival. Whatever the cause, we were grateful, because it also meant we were able to get a seat and a short wait at LPM, which is hard to come by on a nice day like we had. Best of all, no headache the whole day.

The Strava details can be found here.

This is the first 100-mile week (including my 20 miles on Thursday) in months. It's good to be back on the bike and getting the miles in, even if my posture and form aren't there, and even if I'm not as fast or as strong as I want to be. Saturday taught me that I still need to take it easy (apparently) in the sun and heat if I'm going to put out prolonged efforts (maybe).

I also finally feel like a real ambassador again, now that I'm physically and academically able to put in the time. I felt pret-ty guilty for a while there.

It's all part of training when you're training to give cancer the finger. F-you, cancer. I've got your number.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

KSR - Back in the Saddle

After focusing so much energy on school and attending GTRs haphazardly (what a fun-looking word), I defended on March 28th and in short order registered for the Tahoe team, recommitting at the same time as officially committing. It was all very exciting.

I then promptly missed a GTR for being at a conference, but what can you do? I've been struggling all spring to get the miles (any miles, really) in, what with weather and school, but I think at least part of that equation will be balanced for the rest of April, and completely nullified in May. That is a relief. Sweet relief!

I rode the KSR this morning, and because of the cool weather and threat of storms, there was poor turnout. However, we had a new face and I had a nice ride to the rock. We didn't linger long, and the storm ended up blowing completely south of us (yea!) so it was a good ride. I wish I had gotten in extra miles, but I may try to do that on a free day later this week. Tomorrow is out (T-storms predicted), but it should be warm and sunny after Tuesday.

All told, a very nice ride with good company.

Strava details here.


The conference I was at was in Philly, and the weather was a lot like today's: cool (mid-40s) and overcast, with some drizzle). Even so, I saw a LOT of cyclists there, on the narrow, pitted roads. I liked it. I think they were happy to come out of hibernation.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Atlantans: Get your collective head out of your collective ass

I rode home yesterday, but the app only recorded from school to Baker. Too bad. I'll still write up the interesting anecdote here:

I generally like one-way roads while on the bike, because they provide multiple lanes for motorists to pass without bothering me. In this story, I was in the far-left lane on (one-way) Centennial Olympic Park Dr to make a left turn onto (one-way) John Portman (old Harris). I slowed a bit while approaching the light to allow pedestrians to cross and noticed a pick up a couple lanes over doing the same, with the left directional on. Realizing that this truck meant to turn left from a right lane, across several lanes of traffic (and probably into me), I yelled "Hey! Hey! Hey!" and made eye contact through the open window. He returned "Hey what?! I see you." And he proceeded to turn left from his right lane, behind me, into a left lane on Harris.

The pedestrians, who were several adults and a few children and maybe a younger teenager, of course witnessed this whole exchange. They saw fit to make fun of my "hey hey hey" as they continued down the sidewalk. Yes, that is exactly the behavior you should teach your children.


Also, a note to motorists: that solid white line that often precedes an intersection or cross-walk, or accompanies stop signs, is a stop line. You are supposed to stop at it, not on it or over it. Your front bumper should not cross it if you are stopping at that intersection, even if it is not even with the stop line in the lane next to you: that is by design, for visibility and tight turns. When you stop across that line, or inch over it, you make me angry, and you put me in danger.


On my ride home on Tuesday, the driver of an 18-wheeler took the right turn from Baker to Luckie too wide (it's a brand-new, poorly designed intersection, because Atlanta: no one makes deliveries to the Aquarium), while I was stopped at the light waiting to make a left. I saw he couldn't make it and backed up. He started waving wildly and told me to just get off the bike and change lanes. What if I were a car? He endangered me by not calculating his turning speed, and then by forcing me to change lanes and re-enter traffic for my left turn at a light as it changed.


I hate this city.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The snow is melting

As it is wont to do in Atlanta. It was in the 50s and sunny over the weekend, and it will be in the 50s and sunny this weekend as well; the forecast projects 70 and sunny by this time next week. Snow doesn't stand much of a chance in this part of hell (figuratively speaking, of course).

What does that mean? It means that, despite Atlanta's determination to keep me away from school (perhaps this is some almighty force's way of giving me extra time to GtDD), I should be able to get on the bike and ride to school again. I've been on the trainer twice, which in addition to being miserable, means the heart rate and temperature are pretty intense. Neither time did I end up with a headache, so there's no stopping this girl now (again, figuratively speaking: the drivers in Atlanta will have to work with me on this one).

I'll be working on getting the base miles in, which with the commute is an easy 15-16 twice a week. Add that to the GTRs and KSR, and that's 4 rides a week, and that's a good week of riding for someone who hasn't done much of anything besides run and code for six months. I'm looking forward to it.

Speaking of GTRs, the few of you who read this AND ride bikes AND who aren't already on the team AND who live in Georgia AND who hate cancer (the problem with intersecting events is that the subsequent event ends up being very small) should sign up. The rides are in Fletcher, NC and Tahoe, NV/CA (that's right, two states for the price of one) and are both beautiful and both allow you to give cancer the finger.

Even if you're not in Georgia, you can still register with your local chapter (Tahoe is a national event, and we can meet up and ride in Tahoe together! You can meet Graham, and that's a real treat.)

My fundraising starts in earnest in March. In the meantime, hit me up for some cookies.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Cycling and Debugging

While I wait for the current run of my analysis to ... run, I'm going to talk about this morning's GTR.

That's right, it was a GTR, meaning cycle training has officially begun. Now, I'm not officially on the team yet, because I'm under the gun for the dissertation and I want to make sure I can do the rides without a whanging headache for the effort (so far so good!), but I plan to join the team every Saturday until recommitment and do all the training so that it's as if I'm on the team.

(I just started another debugging run attempt)

Recommitment is around the time I'm supposed to defend the dissertation (for a May completion, everything really done, graduation date), so I'll know whether I'll have had enough training in, how I'm feeling, and all that good stuff. It would be a nice defense treat to myself to be able to join the team, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed (and not just for that, of course). I'm hoping that I'm able to keep riding without headaches, especially as the weather warms up.

I watched the heart rate today, and it doesn't really seem to correspond with my perceived effort. It could be just that it was chilly out there and so effort was hard to gauge, but I was just plugging along, feeling great, and my heart rate was higher than I wanted it to be (and higher than my effort felt). I'm not sure what it should be, neither am I sure how to figure that out. I do know that on the piddly climbs on the course my heart rate jumped right up, and I was trying to focus on breathing deeper (which is hard), meaning I'm also trying to focus on posture and form. I think I see some trainer training in my future. Sigh.

Click here for the Strava details.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Today's ride

In which I learn something about myself (again).

I am a competitive person. Since the migraines began in earnest in June, I have had a difficult time getting back on the bike; except for commutes, many of my rides have been cut short or slowed down because of headaches. In discussing strategies for the upcoming TNT season, G pointed out the tendency toward headaches with each ride as a big concern. Even if everything else works out perfectly, it's possible that I just won't be able to put in the miles.

With that kicking around in my mind, I was worried about the ride this morning. I thought about offering an alternative to the usual ride, to allow for a shorter route. Instead, I rode the path, which allowed me to get in the same number of miles, on flatter terrain but without a group to "chase". I also was sure to wear the HRM. I was lucky to ride with C the entire time, so I had company that was willing to keep it nice and mellow. After the out-and-back--all along the path--I felt amazing. The heart rate stayed in a reasonable range, I felt really good, and I never even had the inkling of a headache.

Now, one point is merely an anecdote, but I am still cautiously optimistic. I think the problems with headaches from when I got back on the bike (after a dramatic loss of fitness) through today has been frustration. My running hadn't suffered, but the bike fitness had, and mentally I've tried to translate the running to the bike. That is, I know where I want to be, where everyone else is, and where I "should" be. That's not where I actually am, and I've been riding too hard by trying to keep up, and I think that exertion has been causing problems. Just because I *can* ride at that level (physically, cardiovascularly) doesn't mean I should. Not yet.

My plan, then, is to ride the rides and miles I should be riding, at the pace I should be riding, and at the efforts I should be riding, and not those I want to. It will be difficult sometimes, but given how great I feel today (and how lousy I've felt after rides where I haven't done that), there should be some strong contingencies in play. One factor to consider is who else will be on these rides, but once the Team starts training, I will have others who are rebuilding their fitness that I can tag along with, and will have plenty of company. And, if it doesn't work out, I can kick the fundraising money raised over to G. It's win-win.

See the details here. It's about getting quality miles in, and enjoying them. That happened today (thank goodness).