Thursday, August 23, 2012

PriceChopper Featured Us in their Magazine, Live!

Very exciting!!

Dave & I are spot-lighted in Price Chopper's Fall issue of Live! magazine... "Healthy, happy, and well."

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

First Ride on the New Tandem Bicycle

It was very exciting this last weekend because we were able to ride on our new tandem bicycle! It's a previously loved Co-Motion Speedster -- about 4 years old -- in a very pretty blue color. We found it on Craigslist and we drove to New Hampshire to get it.

We rode with the Thread City Cyclers on it Saturday morning. Before the ride, I asked David to consider if he would be comfortable riding 50 miles on our new bicycle, seeing that we had not been fitted for it yet. He was confident that he would be fine. Ron Manizza led the B ride (Average speed of 14-15 MPH) for the TCC group. He had a fairly hilly route planned to Stafford Springs from North Windham. I really had my doubts about whether it was very smart for us to tackle this particular ride on our new tandem for the first time.

In spite of the fact that our new tandem is 10 pounds lighter than our old one, it was truly a struggle to climb those hills. Our ride leader, Ron, coached me for more effective pedaling. I had heard it before in Ron's spin class, "Keep your heels down and pull up on one leg while pushing forward with the other."

I don't know what it was about that message and the motions, but my legs were screaming!
Also my butt hurt a little too!

We stopped at a neat little coffee shop in Stafford Springs. It felt really good to get off from the bicycle seat. But my leg muscles were still very, very achy.

We ordered a small iced coffee and a freshly baked blueberry scone to share. I jokingly said that I could use a pain killer...

A big thanks to our fellow TCC club member, Dave Fournier for sharing his Motrin.

The return ride was far more comfortable for me. When the Motrin kicked in, I felt a whole lot better.

However, my David had issues. Turns out, the stem on his handlebars was too short. And his bicycle seat had settled down, and his knees were just about were coming up to his chin when he pedaled!

He was so uncomfortable.

A few of our fellow club member friends offered to help us with spare bicycle parts they had on hand, but afterwards we stopped to relax for lunch, and we later visited a bicycle shop for professional advice.


We wish to extend another great big thank you to Steve and Kim at Niantic Bay Bicycle Shop. Steve generously switched out Dave's stem for a longer one. We returned the favor by buying ourselves two new matching jerseys.We plan on wearing those to the Eastern Tandem Rally coming up in early August!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day 2010

Although I make efforts to keep busy and do things, my mind is preoccupied when this time of year comes by. The weather is so beautiful, but the thoughts and memories associated with what happened to us on a bright and sunny Memorial Day in 2010... that part is so very hard.

We were on a group cycling ride, Dave and I were riding our tandem, enjoying the company of friends. The day seemed absolutely pristine - with warm sunshine and cool springtime breezes. One of our cyclist friends was even singing as we pedaled along: Karen Carpenter's Top of the World song. It was a picture-perfect day -- until we reached approximately the 70 mile point of our ride.

We had set out that morning  to do 100 miles. It was in preparation for us personally, to get ready for The Flattest Century ride put on by the Narragansett Bay Wheelmen every September. That would have been my first century ride.

My cell phone rang at the 70 mile point. I answered it because Dave does the steering in the front of the bicycle, so I can usually talk briefly-enough to let the caller know that we are out riding. But this call was different. It was my 19-year-old daughter, and she was telling me of a motorcycle accident -- news that reached her through a series of coincidences -- coincidences unusual enough to have made me a believer in a superior plan that is set forth for each of us. Most people just call it "fate".

The news I received had us immediately divert off route, departing from our group ride -- as we were at that moment in time, actually nearer to the hospital than we were to our van. That in itself was too much of an unusual coincidence.

As we pedaled frantically to reach the hospital, we did not realize the seriousness of the accident my son was involved in. I imagined, but did not know for sure what the next few moments, or hours, or days, and months ahead of us would be like... And how nothing would ever, ever be the same.

On this Memorial Day I recall that day in 2010. I will forever cherish the years I was given to be Geoff's Mom. I was so proud of the man he became.

I will continue to ride for my love of being on two wheels, because my son wouldn't have wanted me to live on the rest of my days not really making the most of my days -- just as Geoff always loved the feeling of being on two wheels ~ although he preferred the motorized kind.

Remembering my first-born son, Geoff. A son, a husband, a brother, and a friend to so many. He was a skilled carpenter and a talented mechanic. His work reflected his passion for perfection, always doing things "the right way." He was a member of The CT National Guard. He was also a father. But he was never able to meet his baby son, who is named after him, and who looks so much like his Daddy. His wife was expecting when his accident happened. His child is a bright star amidst the darkness. This little life has brought us a glimmer of hope.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Tandem Test Ride

We took a ride to New Hampshire over the weekend to follow a dream. It's a dream of a new tandem... in spite of the fact that we don't yet have enough money to buy one.

We met up with a really nice couple about our age who own two Co-Motion bicycles. They had taken two touring vacations with their sons in recent years, with the Mom serving as Captain on one bicycle, and the Dad on the other. (One very cool thing to note is that now that they are again riding with each other, rather than each of them pairing with a son, the mom has become the Captain of their couple team! We have yet to meet another couple where the female takes the lead ~ Yay to her!!) They had quite an adventure flying their two tandems to Montana and cycling with their sons.

Now that their boys are growing older, they no longer have a desire to ride bicycles with Mom and Dad, so the couple has one of their tandems up for sale.

The decor in their home reflects their great affection for all kinds of cycling -- in fact, this couple had met through a bike club (20 years ago!) and incorporated a tandem bicycle ride into their wedding day, just like we did for our wedding!! There were many mementoes on display around the house and photos of their family adventure trips on display in the hallways. They also have a bathroom complete with bicycle wallpaper and towels, Bicycle Ride Framed Wall Art and a whole cycling theme going on with the decor, including a Park Tool toilet paper holder!

We enjoyed a 25 mile tandem test ride with the Dad, and Dave and I really enjoyed the feel of the Co-Motion. It's lighter and more responsive compared to our Burley. Who knows... with keeping a careful rein on our finances, we could possibly turn out to be smiling proud owners of one pretty blue tandem!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Dreaming of a New Bicycle Built for Two!

I have a new job! That's why I haven't been posting updates so frequently in recent weeks. I've been happily busy.

With the new job has come an adjustment period. New responsibilities. A new schedule. Juggling parental obligations. More demands on my time... but my work is interesting and challenging, and I love it!

Thankfully, with the change of seasons and daylight savings time, David and I have been able to walk together early in the mornings and sometimes squeeze in a quick tandem ride after the workday. The exercise absolutely makes a positive difference in my focus and energy level. And although I am getting less sleep, I am sleeping well.

The financial security of having a job means a regular income we can depend upon, and it has given us hope that we might soon be able to afford a new -- well, more likely, a used... tandem bicycle! We've been dreaming of trading-up for well over a year, and previously, we just couldn't justify the expense.

These bicycles built for two are not inexpensive. A pre-owned tandem bicycle in decent shape will start out at least $1500.

Our Burley Duet

Our current tandem is a 10 year old red Burley Duet. Burley doesn't make tandems anymore. The company is most popular now for their child bicycle trailers. Our bike has been good to us. But at 48 pounds loaded with four filled water bottles, we would like something newer and lighter ~ Although, I have told David that I think it would be a lot cheaper for us to loose 10 pounds vs. buying a lighter bicycle!

We've been browsing through the online classifieds and telling our cyclist friends of our desire for something newer, just in case anyone has a deal for us on a well cared for, not-too-old, previously loved tandem in fantastic condition. As we search out avenues of possibilities in pursuit of a tandem dream, I'll be sure to post about our progress.

Our current tandem would offer good stability and solid structure for a couple just starting out cycling together. We'll be wanting to sell it soon, as the possibility of us buying an upgrade comes closer to reality.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Racing Buddies Reunite!

Dave and Chris, during the Saturday morning ride
As we age, a look back to our younger years ~ when pressures of work and responsibilities weren't at the forefront of our minds ~ takes on the sweet, golden glow of nostalgia.

My husband, David, speaks fondly of his teenage years when he hopped on a bicycle with a carefree attitude, and he pedaled for miles upon miles effortlessly. He took part in bicycle races and he participated in group training rides led by Ron Manizza, who owned Rainbow Cycles in Willimantic at the time.

Dave enjoyed the comradery that existed among fellow team members. So when news hit town that a former fellow rider, Chris Lacey, was returning to Connecticut for a family visit, a cycling reunion took place. Ron invited Dave and I to meet up at his home an hour before our regular Saturday morning group rides held by the Thread City Cyclists. It was great for Dave and Ron to catch up with Chris, sharing stories about life adventures. And then, Chris joined our ride!

Dave Etchells, Chris Lacey, and Ron Manizza

It's funny how some tendencies stick with us. Dave laughed aloud as Chris bunny-hopped over railroad tracks and speed bumps, just as he remembered him doing as a kid!

It was a great 42 mile ride on a sunny weekend morning, and a whole lot of fun for the guys to get together again!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Cycling to Work has Many Benefits

Gas prices are skyrocketing. The average price of gas in Connecticut shot up 6 cents in just a week's time, to $4.13 a gallon.

What a great incentive to ride your bicycle to work! But if gas prices alone aren't enough to prompt you to start peddling, consider that May 14th to the 18th is Bike to Work Week! And the national bike to work day is Friday, May 18th.

I've often thought about how great it would be to bicycle to work every day (or at least every day that the weather was dry and between 40 and 90 degrees in temperature), but the thought of arriving at work sweaty with helmet hair has somewhat crushed my enthusiasm.

How would I clean up and transform myself into a polished professional?

Here are some possible strategies I've found to deal with the after-ride cleanup:
  • One idea is to drive to work once a week with what you'll need to wear for the next few days. Store  clothing and shoes in your desk or a cabinet if available. 
  • Arrive early enough to give yourself enough time to wash and change. Bring a wash cloth in a plastic bag so that it can be safely stored after use. Baby wipes are another option. Deodorant/antiperspirant can be kept in a desk drawer too.
  • Arrangements would also need to be made with management on where to store the bicycle during the work day. I'm sure having a cycling-friendly boss would help a lot!
While I am currently working at home, I would encourage daily commuting by bicycle for anyone with suitable circumstances. Not only for the increase in physical fitness and the natural endorphin boost that will have you feeling positive and upbeat throughout the day -- but cycling gives also you time to sort through your thoughts. That makes for a clear mind AND a healthy body!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Great Bicycle Art Found with a Change of Plans

There was no cycling for us on Saturday. It snowed!

 Our daffodils were not very happy. 

~ Plan B ~

We decided to make the best of it. We went shopping. 

TJ Maxx in Warwick has a fantastic HomeGoods store. And look what we found! It's a large canvas wall art piece featuring a bicycle. Just our style! It will be hung on our living room wall just in time for a family gathering this Sunday for Easter.

After that, we planned an afternoon for my 8-year-old daughter and her best friend to enjoy an activity with us! We went roller skating!! Then, it was pizza time!
On Sunday David and I were able to get out on our tandem bicycle for 26 miles, even though it was damp and cold. At least it wasn't raining or snowing, and we had a chance to get in some pedaling. We're hoping for brightness and warmth as the Spring season progresses.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Balance and Moderation

This past weekend was a tough one for us when it came to getting on the bicycle. David was not feeling well, and he decided to pull out from Saturday's criterium race. For a change of pace, we ventured over to Talcott Mountain State Park. We hiked to the top for a view. I bet it's breathtaking in the Fall with Autumn colors! I found that hiking the steep uphill winded me. I needed my inhaler, and that didn't feel good. To top it off, as soon as I stepped on the trail, my allergies stirred up -- my eyes were itchy and watery. I had a terrible time of it, and I could hardly wait to get back into the van so I could blow my runny nose.
Our view on Saturday (3/24/12) from a climb to Heublein Tower
at Talcott Mountain state Park in Simsbury, CT

We had a better afternoon. We took a shortened version of a tandem ride we had already planned, and that felt good. Then, we picked up my daughter and her best friend, and we brought them over to a local farm stand that was offering free ice cream sundaes to celebrate their season opening. The ice cream was homemade -- tasty and delicious, and the girls were lots of fun! However, it was windy and cold outside, and that was where we had to sit to eat our sundaes because the place was too busy inside! Needless to say, we ate quickly.

After that, we drove to visit with my elderly grandfather in Rhode Island. That was the greatest part of our day's activities. He thoroughly enjoyed our company, and he was especially entertained by my daughter's viewpoint of other kids her age. Her animated story-telling skills made him smile. We read him his mail (because he can not see very well), and I left with him a homemade meal and a few cider donuts we picked up earlier from the farm stand.

Sunday turned out to be another cool, dreary day with the threat of rain. We decided to catch up on our growing list of household to-do's. David's enthusiasm for tackling each item on the list impressed me! We made terrific progress and later on took in an afternoon movie at the theater.

I must say that I am so grateful for the wonderful husband I have!
Of all the options we had to see different movies -- and even though The Hunger Games was pulling in huge crowds, David agreed to see a movie of my liking: The Vow. I loved it.  : )

Later on in the day, we got a Red Box movie rental that David picked: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
We snuggled, and I fell asleep in his arms.

Sure, it was unusual for us, but we did not ride on Sunday. We took a break and welcomed other activities. It's good to bring a sense of balance into our lives.

* Our blog is on the list for Connecticut's Top Blogs of 2012 on the Hartford Courant's website. Please take a moment to vote for the Tandem-Team blog under Sports blogs. We will most certainly appreciate your efforts!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Clipping in... and Falling Over! Tips for Using Clipless Pedals

David and I are active members in a couple of cycling groups. I enjoy being on the email lists and participating  in some of the discussions on topics that many of us would find interesting.

Today a topic came through on the message board from a cyclist looking for advice on becoming more skilled at getting out of pedal clips.

Ha! That reminded me of my own beginnings when David first convinced me that I should be 'attached' to my pedals. (I've since learned that it does make pedaling more efficient.)

We practiced a few times in the driveway, and then we took off for an easy ride on the bike path. Dave had my daughter attached to his bicycle with the tag-a-long, and I was on my own single bike. She may have thought I was being entertaining, but I fell over three times in a row! I simply was not conditioned to thinking about preparing to stop in advance, so I can certainly relate to the woman seeking advice!

I've learned from my own personal experience that it's best to wiggle your heel outwards to unclip -- away from the bicycle. Previously, I wiggled my foot both ways, and in doing that the back of my shoe had actually caught up in the spokes of my rear wheel, which threw me to the ground!

Another thing I've figured out is that the tightness of the cleat in the pedal can be adjusted. Not having worn such things before, at first I wasn't sure of how easily my foot 'should' be able to clip in and out, and sometimes it was really too tight of a fit, so I was unable to clip out quick enough.

It was helpful for me to establish a habit in how I unclip -- always 'left out' first. Being that I often ride on a tandem, it also works to assure that we are coordinated when we come to a stop, so that we always dismount on the same side.

An interesting thing we've noticed that seems to be unique to each couple on a tandem bicycle, is that many stokers choose to remain clipped in during a ride when it's necessary to stop at an intersection. I suppose it's easier, but I think I'd be a little bit nervous. When Dave and I start off, we clip-in in unison. When we need to stop, he will often let me know to unclip by saying, "Left out."  But, everyone has their own way of doing things!

 For more information, check out...
Do I need clipless pedals? Will I fall over when I stop?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Positive Benefits in Joining a Cycling Club

We have been fortunate to have awesome warm weather this week!! And, with the change over to daylight savings time, we've had more opportunity to get out on the road too!

On Sunday, we got together with other club members from the Thread City Cyclers and it was an enjoyable ride to Coriander Cafe & Country Store in Eastford, Connecticut. Although one member experienced two flats, it was otherwise smooth going!

We also ran into another group of cyclists from our club at Coriander -- including John and Beth -- who also sometimes ride on a tandem!!

Later that evening the kickoff meeting for the Thread City Cyclers at a local firehouse took place. Not only did they serve the best homemade ice cream ever from the UConn Dairy Bar, it was a great time to mingle with other riders and learn about upcoming plans and cycling events.

Dave and I are planning to include many of these rides on our calendar for the season. Part of the meeting's agenda included introductions of new members and each member was given an opportunity to share some of their goals for the year. Mine are to increase the duration  (mileage) of many of our rides for greater comfort and to improve my overall fitness level. As David becomes more involved with bicycle racing, he may want to get in a few extra miles on his own where he can hammer. I need to become more accustomed to riding on my own at times.

The club is always open to new members, and one thing I can say that is especially great about the Thread City Cyclers is that they offer group rides for cyclists at all levels. For newbies, there is a weekly beginner ride led by Scott of Scott's Cyclery. The club is very social, the members are extremely supportive when it comes to sharing information and helping new riders to improve their skills. Being involved has most certainly enriched our lives with great friends!

For more information about the Thread City Cyclers, check out the About Us page on their website.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Getting Started in Bicycle Racing... Again!

The starting line...
We had an hour and a half drive to get to the race on Saturday morning. We got up early, and I made David one of my most famous and healthy smoothies along with a bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich on an English muffin. We hurried around gathering belongings and ate in the van on the way.

When we first pulled into the parking lot, David immediately approached another rider for information on where the registration area was located. That rider actually gave him direction to the starting point of the race.

It was extremely cold! Even with the wind whipping, David was starting to gear up into his cycling clothes outside of the van! Then I noticed there was a table set up far across the other end of the lot. Wondering who else in their right minds would be sitting at a table set up outdoors on such a day, we realized that it was likely that the registration spot was right there! It was a good thing we didn't head right over to where that other rider suggested because we would have wasted valuable time.

This was a criterium training race. It was the first of this year's Plainville Spring Cycling Series held at the Farmington Valley Corporate Park. Basically the course consists of forty half mile loops -- twenty miles total.

Although David has racing experience, it was many years ago. This was a good race for David to ease into now, to familiarize himself with the feeling of pushing himself to the max and riding super close!

David comes into the finish!
At the starting point, David tossed his extra pair of gloves over to me. It's not always easy to know how to dress with the changeable weather conditions we've had lately.

He stuck with the pack for a few loops, but then he fell behind. With training races such as this, lapped riders don't get pulled. As the race progressed, David once again found himself within the pack, and for a few laps he was again able to hang on. Although he was eventually lapped again, I'm proud of him for sticking through to the finish.

The plan is to continue these weekly training races so that David can work to improve his skills and overall fitness level. This commitment assures that he will take advantage of every opportunity to work on his skills throughout the week -- with early morning or after work rides or spin classes, attacking challenging climbs, and monitoring his heart rate to ensure optimum performance.

We'll be there again next week!

Good articles to check out!
How to Race a Criterium

10 Tips for Beginning Road Racers

Friday, March 9, 2012

Following the Dream

This will be an exiting weekend! David's USA Cycling license arrived in the mail yesterday. Tomorrow, David will test the waters as he re-enters the world of bicycle racing as more than just an observer!

David raced as a teenager, but with becoming a grown-up and having stresses and responsibilities, his own desires were put on hold. Now that David's (with me!) in a supportive relationship, he's on the right path with his career, and his son is off to college -- it's time to do those things he didn't have the freedom to do previously.

I'll be ringing a cowbell on the sidelines to cheer him on!!

The Plainville Spring Series is held on the roadways of The Farmington Valley Corporate Park in Plainville, CT. The course consists of a flat, 0.5 mile circuit on smooth pavement with two, wide 90 degree turns.

I discovered this video clip online of a previous year's race.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Prizes are at the Bottom of the Box!

Sun shines through the clouds at the end of Sunday's ride.
Over the weekend, our activities shared a theme -- the thing that would have made it absolutely perfect came about when the event was over!

On Saturday evening we tried out a new restaurant. It's not too far from home, and it's always been there, but for some reason neither of us had ever tried it before. My daughter was happy as she had been invited to a sleepover, freeing us for the evening unexpectedly, so we figured we would enjoy a night out.

We arrived at the restaurant around 7:15 pm. There was no nearby parking, so we parked down the street a few minutes walk away from the entrance. We entered and it was clear that this place was very busy. We stood by the door for a few minutes before being acknowledged. When were finally acknowledged, we were told there was a wait. How long? A few minutes.

We were directed to a small sitting area. About five minutes later, we were seated. But we saw no waitress for another 10-15 minutes. Then she actually stopped by and took our drink order. Another 15-20 minutes and our drinks arrived. But our waitress just placed the drinks on the table and swiftly left us again. We still hadn't even ordered our food. By the time she returned, we expressed with clarity that we were hungry. We placed our food order... and asked for water, please.

It was at least a half hour before our appetizer was delivered. It was good, but it came without the waters. Another lengthy wait, and our sandwiches finally arrived to the table. However our waitress did the drop and run thing again. She never came back to ask how we were doing, and David waited 10 minutes with an open sandwich, hoping she would return with the hot sauce he requested... or maybe our waters??

To top it all off there was a party of 12 sitting next to us, drinking way too much, yelling out loud, and singing! Each time the sound level elevated over there, David and I could not hear each other speak, and our conversation came to a stop.

Eventually, David ate his sandwich (dry ~ no drink) when I was done with my first half -- and our check was delivered. And, then... our waters arrived! Oh, and that was while the restaurant's owner was at our table asking us how our dinner was!

We were honest, and our check was discounted.

On Sunday, we planned a bike ride. Dave and I were riding the tandem bike, and we met up with another Dave (from the TCC Club) and his 14-year-old son, Sam. The plan was for about thirty miles total throughout rural areas of Plainfield and Canterbury. Dave and I added a few more miles by riding to and from the starting point on our tandem, making it a 46 mile day for us.

With temperatures in the low 40's, the sky was overcast and cloudy. We layered up as we would for any winter day ride, but I never reached a warm-enough state of comfort. The roads were great (aside from some sand sprinkled all over from a recent snowfall) and the company was terrific!

We had a rest stop detour along the way to allow for a comfortable pee-stop for me (guys have no problem with stopping along the roadside and locating a tree in the woods), and that break was taken at Dave and Sam's house! It was very nice of Dave's wife, Michele, to invite us inside for cups of hot chai tea to warm up. We all relaxed and recharged with friendly conversation!

On the way back, we were settling into a good cadance, but I still felt a chill inside -- I can only describe it as a feeling of my bones being cold. The skies were still overcast. Aside from that, the scenery and the company was quite enjoyable!

We pulled into the center of Plainfield where Dave and Sam's car was parked, and then Dave and I peddled onward another 9 miles, back towards home.

As we tackled hills closer to home, the clouds in the sky seemed to part. As we turned into our neighborhood, it brightened somewhat more. And, as we turned into our driveway, the clouds were parting even more so -- with sunshine peeking through! It immediately felt warmer. But now, we were home.  : )

Friday, March 2, 2012

Riding on the Rollers

David has incorporated rollers as part of his indoor cycling training ever since he was a teenager competing in races. He makes it look easy. It's a skill often admired -- and sometimes feared.

David rides rollers under the Sufferfest flag at Spin Class.
Bicycle rollers are a set of 3 metal cylinders attached by a belt. Your bicycle is placed on top, and when you get on and begin pedaling, the cylinders rotate, but the bike does not advance forward. It requires a higher level of concentration to maintain speed and balance on rollers vs. a traditional stationary trainer because you must keep the bicycle steady within the width of the cylinders - approximately 16 inches or so - throughout the workout session.

Also, while a traditional trainer holds your bicycle in place and there is no fear of falling, on rollers that fear is more of a reality. You must maintain a fairly straight line with your handlebars in order to keep control. In effect, one of the main advantages of training on rollers is that it improves your stability and confidence when riding on the road, especially in a paceline.

You also need to pedal effectively on rollers to maintain good balance. In doing so, you'll notice any weaknesses in your cycling skills -- such as poor balance or pedal stroke.

With great optimism, David actually ordered an extra set of rollers for me a couple of years ago so that we could train together throughout the colder months. It took me just two attempts before coming to a conclusion that I'm just not advanced enough -- yet -- to add that skill to my repertoire! The entire time I was sweating, while David was straddling my front tire and holding me steady with a tight grip on my handlebars.

Part of that failure might have been the fear instilled within me as a result of an incident David shared about his older brother flying off the thing when he took a stab at it way-back-when.

On the other hand, I did find this web page online that offers instruction on 'Ten Easy Steps to Learn How to Ride Rollers'. I think there's good advice here, but it's just not that easy for most of us! It's interesting to note that the same author also features another article on his website, 'How to Minimize Injury when Crashing'.

All-in-all, when it come to cycling on a tandem, David's choice to utilize rollers for off-season training has made him a better captain too. Even when I might be eating, drinking, or removing my jacket while positioned behind him, for the most part he continuously keeps our ride smooth and stable. That's key to being able to mesh well with other riders when on a group ride.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Local Farmer's Markets Can't be Beat!

Dave and I took part in a workshop over the weekend offered by a local winter farmer's market. It was on raising your own backyard chickens. We were intrigued.

David's brother and other friends of ours have their own chickens, and on occasion, we've benefited with fresh eggs they've shared with us. We really enjoy them. I also love the idea of  producing our own food. We had some success with a backyard garden last year, and as we learn more, we're hopeful that we will get even better at it!

The chicken workshop was very popular -- standing room only. We were very lucky to secure two seats next to each other. There were poultry catalogs and books to browse through, and we were supplied with a lot of useful information.

Did you know that a chicken can naturally live up to 15 years, and that she will lay eggs for only about 2 of those years? After that, we can eat them... if we don't grow too emotionally attached!

We do need to come up with some kind of housing for suitable protection from predators, and then I think we might start out with 6 or 8 birds this spring.

After our workshop, David and I browsed around the farmer's market. I really enjoy the assortment of samples made with wonderfully fresh and wholesome ingredients! We tasted pasta sauce, butter, cheeses, pesto, and dips. We purchased lettuce, scallions, eggs, and a frozen seafood pie with the most incredible light flaky crust -- which we enjoyed for dinner that evening! Oh! We also bought some blueberry muffins. Baked goods are something we've been avoiding in our quest to eat better and shed pounds, but here we were 20 minutes before closing time, and those were offered to us at half price.

After the market, we planned to ride our tandem for a couple of hours. However, we actually spent more time there than we expected, and it was growing late. David also stopped to chat extensively with a man walking two Airedale dogs at our starting point. (He loves the breed, and he has always wanted to own one.) Turns out the man with the dogs also owns a Burley tandem -- just like ours!

We ended up shortening our route considerably, after the realization of our available time combined with a whipping wind sunk in. It was almost 40 degrees, but felt colder. Still, it felt great to get roughly 15 miles in.

Upon our return, we were surprised that daylight was still with us. The sunset time is now 5:35 pm ~ much later than it was just a month or so ago. We're looking forward to warmer weather -- and hopeful there will soon be sufficient daylight to allow us pre-and-post workday rides!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Anxiety on My Own

I don't know why it is, but I experience a tinge of anxiety when it comes to planning a bicycle ride out and about on the hills of Sterling when I am on my own. David is working and unavailable to ride with me.

I have a great single bicycle, and I love it. But I have to admit, I love being on the tandem more!

Before David left for work, he had me pump air into the tires. A simple thing for most, but it's something I've always relied on David to do. He showed me how the tires on my two bikes are different and use opposite ends of the pump nozzle. And they are also different when it comes to how much air I should pump into each.

I discovered too, that I don't have great upper arm strength. Of all the exercises I prefer to do -- elliptical machine, brisk walking, treadmill, or cycling -- none of those do anything for my arms. I do have a couple of workouts on DVD. I suppose it's time to admit, I should do those more often. The simple motions of pumping air into my bicycle tires made my arms ache. Geez!!

Once I am ready to leave my driveway, I feel a sense of trepidation. I worry about what-ifs. What if I get a flat? What if I can't make it up a big, big hill? What if I have an accident and fly head first over my handlebars? What if... no one is around to rescue me???

My view on the bicycle on today's ride.
 I don't know... The benefits far outweigh the risks.

It's the wind in my face, the fresh air, and the time to allow myself self-reflection that motivates me. Not to mention, the calories burned. To top it off, the way I feel so great after a ride is really the payoff. I will do it again whenever I can!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Epic! Hardcore! ~ Reactions to our February Century Ride

We did it!!!
Epic. Hardcore. Those are some of the words people used upon hearing of our desire to complete a century ride (100 miles) in upstate New York on our tandem in February!

The snowfall came down upon us for only for the last 10 miles or so. While I had previously told David that if it snowed, I would be getting off the bike and he could ride in on his own, that didn't happen.
: )

After all, we had gone so far and my butt wasn't even killing me at that point!

Our adventure began on Friday night. Because David had a full workday ahead of him, we had the van packed the night before. When Dave was free from work, we drove 3 1/2 hours to Ballston Spa, a small town not far from Saratoga Springs, New York.

Our hosts: Paul & Wendy

We connected with a wonderful couple, Paul and Wendy, who offered to host us for the weekend. We met them online through the warmshowers website, which offers hospitality for touring cyclists. These people warmed our hearts with their down-to-earth friendliness and generosity. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at their home, the easy conversation and the most incredibly amazing and delicious meals!

Paul is a professor in Culinary Arts and Wendy is equally gifted. It was our good fortune to meet up with them. In spite of our late arrival on Friday night (after 8 p.m.) we were welcomed at their table with a pot roast dinner, including mashed potatoes and homemade bread!

On Saturday morning, we awoke early. Paul was great to help Dave off to a good start with coffee brewing. I had taken along fresh ingredients in a cooler for our favorite pre-ride smoothie, and we shared some with Paul before we hurried out the door to ensure we had plenty of time before our ride start at 8 am. We were about a half hour drive away from the town of Schuylerville, where the Snowball Express event began from the Director's home.

After stopping on the way to figure out why our GPS was directing us in an opposite direction from notes we had taken earlier in the week, we finally arrived at 7:45 am. I was already dressed in multiple layers, but Dave overheats easily so he still needed to pile on some clothing. Other riders were mulling around, inside and outside of the house.

Coffee, tea, and bagels were available for pre-ride fueling. I had a half cup of coffee and a half bagel with cream cheese. There was a great assortment of Hammer Nutrition products put out for us too. Dave and I took a couple of gel packs each. We had also brought along some of our own old favorites for long rides: Clif Bars, Shot blocks, and some of our favorite flavors in Clif Shot Energy Gels. (I like the mocha and expresso flavors, not so much a fan of fruity gels.)

We took off  around 8:15 a.m. The morning was bright and sunny, and while the temperatures were said to be in the low 30's, there was little wind. I was very comfortable in my six layers!

There were six bicycles on this ride, seven riders -- including the organizer. This was my second century ride. My first was The Flattest Century of the East put out by the Narragansett Bay Wheelmen Club, and that one had over 2,000 participants. This was quite a contrast!

Dave Waldburger
We were happily surprised that one of our fellow TCC (Thread City Cyclists) members was inspired to join us. David Waldburger is a seasoned cyclist who commutes to work each day on his bicycle! He is a pleasure to ride with, as he easily adapts on group rides with other cyclists of varying capabilities.

We all rode as a pack for the first part of the ride. Everyone was upbeat and talkative. It was nice to get to know the other cyclists.

Jim Williams
One of our fellow riders has taken part in the RAAM ( Fascinating to talk to, Jim is an attorney living in New York City, on a 4-person team training for this year's grueling event (profiled in the movie documentary, Bicycle Dreams).  His team, Team4HIVHope, will be conducting active experiments on their members to compare the effects of endurance activity on HIV+ and non-HIV+ athletes. In 2011, Team 4HIVHope completed the Race in six days, six hours and 34 minutes and finished 8th out of 32 teams. The ride we shared with him is part of his ongoing preparation for the big race, which begins on June 16, 2012.

With the exception of one somewhat challenging hill at the very onstart of the ride, the route was surprisingly flat. Dave and I were pleased that the pace of the group was comfortable for us -- even being on a tandem. We averaged a speed of 14.5 MPH.

Along the way, we kept ourselves fueled periodically with the sports nutrition goodies we brought along. At one point, the group did spread apart. Those of us in front lost our way, and we needed to stop to look at the route sheet and turn around after crossing a grated bridge. I was thankful at that point, that it was dry road because we imagined that riding over that grating could be a little slippery when wet.

At another point in the ride, we lost sight of two riders, but they were local and knew the area well. Somewhat miraculously, we all managed to regroup again as the ride progressed. The first rest stop was at a convenience store about 35 miles in. I was ready for it! Unlike the guys, I wasn't comfortable stopping along the roadside to pee.

At the halfway point, it was about 12:30 in the afternoon. We were back at John's house, where we started. It felt good to take a more lengthy break then, as we collected inside around the dining room table. There were chips, Oreo cookies, Pop Tarts, and leftover bagels to munch on. I was surprised to see a cooler full of cold soda for us. That's one item I've removed from my diet. I enjoyed a hot cup of tea instead, and it felt good, warming me up from the inside!

A little while later, we were back outside getting on our bikes. I was playing a mind game with myself, trying to forget that I had just ridden 50 miles, and convincing myself that I felt good enough to embark on a fresh adventure!

The skies were getting more overcast, and it seemed it wasn't as warm as it felt earlier in the day. The temperatures were supposed to reach 39 or 40 degrees, but now there wasn't so much sunshine.

Mile by mile, riders engaged in lively conversation, which passed the time more quickly. There was little traffic, and I appreciated that.

Later in the afternoon, the weather turned, and we felt the occasional drop of water hit our faces. We were hoping for it to hold off, but gradually, it became colder and before we knew it, it was snowing!

In spite of my warning to Dave that I was prepared to hop off the tandem if it started snowing, we were so far along at that point! We had 10 miles to go when it first started to get wet, and 8 miles left when it was actively snowing.

As the weather changed, our group spread apart greatly. The faster guys (Dave W. and Jim) broke away from us. The three others fell behind, and as a result, Dave and I were on our own for a while.  

The snow started to fall more heavily and it was accumulating on grassy areas, but seemingly melting upon contact with the road. We were advised earlier in the ride that the way back was continuing straight, but we came upon a fork in the road. Our glasses were covered in wet snow, and our clothes were starting to soak through. Being on our own, we were suddenly unsure of which way to go, and we didn't want to delay our return by choosing to wrong way.

We stopped to give John a call on the cell. Come to find out, he wasn't too far behind. However, while we were stopped, another rider made his way up to us. Ross is an older cyclist, a marriage counselor. We enjoyed chatting with him about his work, and we joked about couples who ride tandems, and how doing so tends to make or break a relationship.

Ross rode with us in the snowstorm!

Ross has gone this route before, and he knew how to get us back. He was encouraging -- it wasn't too far to go, the roads weren't all that much slippery, and we had come so far already!

As we continued onward with Ross, Dave's cell phone rang. I retrieved it from his rear pocket to answer. It was John. His wife had called him, stating that it was snowing pretty heavily back at the house. She offered to come out to get him with their minivan, and he was going to have her do that. John offered us the same escape if we felt we did not want to continue riding in the harsh weather.

There were just 8 miles to go! No way. We had to keep moving.

We approached a stop sign, and Ross stopped and we followed suit. He took off his gloves. He asked us for our camera. This was the 100 mile mark, and Ross was helping us to capture the moment!! (Photo at the top of this page.)

By then, we had two more miles before we were back at our starting point. It's likely that our earlier detour lengthened the overall mileage tally. As we pulled into the front of John's house, Ross yelled out a hearty, "Congratulations!!" to us.

Dave W., Scott, Jim, John, and my Dave after the finish!
Ross had just left for home.

(Not sure why the reflective stripes on John's jersey caused a blur, but it happened in four shots!)

We congratulated him as well. Dave W. and Jim were already inside, and John was brought home by his wife. A few minutes later, Scott arrived safe and sound. We clapped and cheered for him too!

Inside we warmed up and peeled off our wet layers. It was 5:30 p.m. As much as we were feeling drained and wiped out from the last few miles, we felt proud of having done it!

Back with our van loaded, we phoned Paul and Wendy back in Ballston Spa. Such wonderful hosts, they were preparing another memorable meal! The menu included Chicken Marsala, couscous salad, and grilled asparagus. For desert, walnut tarts from Paul's class. Incredible!

In the morning, we were served a breakfast we had never experienced before -- aebleskiver! They are traditional Danish pancakes in a distinctive shape of a sphere. Somewhat similar in texture to American pancakes crossed with a popover, æbleskiver are solid like a pancake but light and fluffy like a popover. Paul invited me by the stove to view the unusual cast iron pan designed especially for this dish. Served with powdered sugar and maple syrup, we enjoyed the new found delicacy!

Before heading home, we wanted to see some of the sights of the area. We checked out the Schenectady Greenmarket a winter Farmer's Market. We picked up some fresh bread, jellies, almond butter, and raw honey. Afterward, we headed over to the town of Saratoga Springs where we walked and checked out some of the eclectic shops to be seen.

All in all, this was an adventure that began with kind-of-a-crazy idea from the man I love! This century ride in February is part of our goal-setting process, where we decided to mark out certain key events to challenge ourselves throughout the year.

We've met some amazing folks and learned a lot along the way. We're super-excited to experience more! This is all in support of our desire to be more fit and healthy, and to stretch beyond our own pre-existing ideas of what we are capable of doing!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Getting Ready for a Big Weekend!

It's a rainy but mild day in Connecticut. Temperatures should reach 50 degrees. Tomorrow is set to be somewhat colder, but sunny. Dave and I are happily anticipating the weekend ahead. This will be my second century ride. I hopeful that we can make the entire distance!

Our rear tire has been replaced. The old one was toast. Dave gave the tandem a detailed inspection and a good wipe-down to combat some of the muddy splashes that had accumulated in its crevices. We have the van preloaded so we'll be ready to roll!

We are looking forward to cycling in a new environment. The course will be a rolling figure 8 loop through Saratoga County and will take us along the Hudson River and around Saratoga Lake. We've been told that this part of New York is very pretty ~ although that is during the warmer months!

We're also excited to meet new friends. We've tapped into the website again (the last time was in September for our California honeymoon!), and we've had nothing but positive experiences! Our hosts for this weekend seem to be very pleasant and most certainly gracious to open their home to us.

We've also had a couple of conversations with John Ceceri from Adirondack Ultra Cycling, who is the organizer for the Snowball Express ride. He has been extremely helpful with information he has shared about the event, as well as the surrounding area. The Adirondack Ultra Challenge series fills in the months between other Adirondack Ultra Cycling events with centuries, so that a cyclist can accomplish the goal of riding a century every month for an entire year.

With this year's mild winter enabling us to continue riding on the road without any lengthy interruptions, we've decided to focus on improving our overall fitness and riding skills, and setting goals is exactly our strategy! Dave has been exploring the possibility of getting into bicycle racing again. I want to be be more fit and lose weight for an overall sense of well-being. We're prepared to take on each challenge and enjoy the journey and new adventures along the way!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Preparing for a Century... and Unexpected Happenings!

David took a vacation day from work today so that we would have an opportunity to get some serious miles under our belts before this Saturday's 100 mile century ride. The plan was for 54 miles and we did it!

However, this was not a stress-free ride.

A strange thing happened to me with my heart rate monitor. It beeps when I am out of my "zone". The zone is where Polar suggests my heart rate should be when I want to have an effective workout. My watch alerts me when I am not within in the targeted range.

At roughly the 12 mile point, my watch was beeping. We were climbing a pretty steep hill, so I assumed I was over my zone ~ which goes up to 149 on the high end. I couldn't resist catching a glance to see where it was. To my disbelief, it was reading 111 at the peak of the climb! The watch was alerting me that I was under my target zone. Now that was strange. Then, as we leveled out, my heart rate dropped to 48. Wow, that's really low. What was going on?

That triggered a pattern of scarey thoughts about what could possibly be happening with my health.

I had a health scare back in April 2010 that began with an assortment of unusual symptoms. The doctors eventually discovered a blood clot in the portal vein of my liver. They also found gallstones. My symptoms leading up to the diagnosis ranged from an itchy rash on sun-exposed areas of my skin, to dark urine, to light-headedness, to vomiting and fainting, and then severe abdominal pain on the right side. They did not do a gall-bladder operation because I needed to be on blood thinners to resolve the blood clot. After being hospitalized and  fed only liquids through an IV for a while, most of my alarming symptoms faded away, and I was discharged from the hospital. I was left with lingering symptoms of a different sort. Mainly, occasional bouts of dizziness with a sense of my heart racing. This happened most often when I was standing for prolonged periods of time, for instance, when shopping. If I immediately left the store and sat in my car in the parking lot, it would sometime subside. I was referred to a heart specialist who determined that my heart is perfectly fine, but my blood pressure was low. I may have been on too much of a dosage of my blood pressure medication (I lost weight and since I was exercising, the dosage prescribed to me when I was heavier and not as active was too much).

That feeling of dizziness happens less frequently now, and it is much less intense. I do occasionally get episodes of abdominal pain -- approximately every 6 to 9 months. Sometimes vomiting comes with it. A pain-killer eliminates the discomfort and puts me to sleep, and then it doesn't happen again for a while.

Now I am losing weight again. While I am on a different blood pressure medication, I've been told it is a very low dosage. But since my diseased gall bladder is still inside of my gut, I live with an ever-present fear. Also, I have never been given an explanation as to why I was experiencing the dizzy spells... although fewer and far more milder now. This all leaves me with my mind running through strings of possible traumatic health conditions I might have whenever something unusual seems to be going on.

David advised me to pay no attention to my heart rate monitor. It was probably just missing beats.

Hmmm... it's never done that before.

Eventually, my heart rate does seem to return back to normal ranges. But suddenly, I need to pee. We pull into a nearby cafe. It is closed. There are no other stops nearby. We end up riding another 10 miles or so until we reach a gas station where I can use a bathroom. I am relieved and we continue on our way.

The day was cloudy, yet mild -- temperatures in the mid-40's -- for most of our time spent riding. Occasionally, the sun would peek through the clouds, and eventually it did warm up a bit. I was feeling overheated. We pulled over to stop so I could remove my gloves, my outermost jacket, my neck-warmer, and knit headband.
Concerned about my daughter arriving home on the school bus at a specific time, I express concern over the length of our route. We had about an hour and a half and about 20 miles to go. David modified the original planned ride to give us more of a comfort zone in getting back to our house in time.

The ride went well until we were roughly 4 miles from home... and facing three sizable climbs, with about 20 minutes before the school bus drop-off time. David asked me if the rear tire seemed soft. I hadn't felt anything unusual. But preferring to err on the side of caution, I suggest that we pull over to inspect the tire.

It was soft. David pumped it up. We continued onward towards home.

At the top of our first lengthy climb, we pulled over to check the rear tire again. We had 8 minutes before drop-off time, and David needed to inflate it again! We had a slow-leaker on our hands that wasn't quite slow enough.

We descended two gigantic hills on the main road before the turning point onto our street. As we began our final 3-part climb at the base of our road home, we get the obvious flat tire sound of, "blumb, blump, blump...".

David pulled over again to re-inflate the tire. I was getting panicky. The bus would be at our house any minute! I phoned a neighbor to escort my daughter off the bus in case we didn't make it back home in time. Whew! What a relief to know we have wonderful neighbors.  : )

David had the tire ready to go again, and we hopped back on the tandem.

We weren't three houses further when that familiar, "blumb, blump, blump..." was happening again. Fortunately we made it into our driveway before the bus arrived! I phoned our neighbor to let her know we were safely home. The bus was four minutes late, and my little girl was cheerful and happy -- blissfully unaware of any unusual circumstances.

That was the conclusion of our ride. It was 54 miles. Being mid-February, I'm glad we had a chance to ride. And being that we have a century ride to tackle in a couple of days, I'm really glad we were able to put on a few base miles. Now, we just need to get that tire fixed!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Looking Beyond Limitations

Last night David and I went to a spin class at the gym, and we shared our plans to do a century ride (100 miles) this Saturday in New York. The collective reaction of our friends was astonishment!

Here we are after finishing our first ever century ride, in 2010!
It's funny. If anyone had asked me (even a few months ago) if I could see myself doing a century ride in the month of February, I'm pretty sure my answer would have been, "No way!"

I think back in time to 1999 when I had just moved to a rural area of Johnston, Rhode Island from a more city-like neighborhood. I'd often see groups of cyclists ride by my home in sweeping blurs of spandex colors. I remember watching in amazement. I was in an unhappy marriage, raising four kids, working long hours, and not nearly as active as I am today. If anyone asked me back then if I could ever see myself as one among those riders, my reply would have most certainly been, "No way!" as well.

But here I am now, in a place and time that has turned so positive. I am grateful.

I am in a close and loving relationship with a man I adore. We have a good home and wonderful family. Life has thrown a lot at us, with a health scare, financial stresses, and a horrible loss with the death of my oldest son. But, we've been there for each other as we seek out to gather strength in the lessons of it all.

David's support and encouragement has been steadfast, and it has shown me that there is much ahead for us -- much of which is beyond what we ever could have imagined for ourselves!

Case in point, earlier this year -- with lots of hope, pure desire, meticulous planning, and incredibly generous family and friends -- we were able to have the cycling honeymoon of our dreams in San Francisco!

And somehow in our lives today, we are losing those extra pounds, eating healthier, exercising and accomplishing goals we've set. We're feeling more energetic and positive, and we are loving this life.

The road ahead is unknown, but it is sure to be an adventure. We're up for it.
After all, I'm a stoker who has great trust in her captain!