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.