A Summer Solo Ride: Climbing Day

Then And Now

Dawn. That ethereal state of awakening when the earth is bathed in a bluish-green glow which sneaks through the curtains to land on my sleepy eyes. That time just before day-break when the roosters begin to echo their calls through the countryside and the birds chip curiously as if they, like me, aren’t quite sure if they want to be awake yet. It’s this time of morning when I have a stern conversation with myself…

summer morningBrain: “Wakey, wakey!”

Self: “I’m comfy and the bed is cozy, stop bugging me.”

Brain: “It’s almost dawn and you know it’ll be hot soon! Get up if you want to ride.”

Self: “Oh… but I’m comfy.”

Brain: “You could lay here, but you’ll be sorry later…”

Self: “Right. Ok. FINE. I’m getting up.”

Sleepily, I stagger out of bed and throw back the curtains and allow the twilight glow of dawn to fill the room. Pulling on some shorts (so I don’t shock the neighbors), I open the heavy wooden door to the porch and wander outside. It’s nice to feel the morning on my skin before I do anything else. Almost as if to say “Hi” to the earth first. There’s nothing quite like greeting the day in person. It’s almost better than coffee.

Almost.

While I go about my morning routine the sun pops over the trees, highlights the mist that still hangs in the valleys, and shimmers on the millions of spider webs between the grasses that have somehow sprung up overnight. Very busy, those spiders. Fed, hydrated, cleaned, sunscreen on, kit on, food stashed, bottles prepared, helmet, gloves, sunglasses, shoes, and air in the tires – those same tires are set down on pavement around forty minutes after I had that grumpy conversation with Self. Somewhere in all that I decided where I wanted to ride. All roads leave from my front door here. It’s just a matter of which direction I want to go.

Today is Climbing Day.

The click of cleats engaging the pedals, the first hum of tires on pavement, and the soft swish of the chain is heard by no one in particular as I roll out. Not yet sweaty and not yet warmed up I focus on a slow pedaling rhythm as I cross the bridge on the edge of my tiny town and climb. Climbing starts immediately so I set my gaze out across the yellow-tinted softly lit fields and breathe in the early morning. The first few full lungful’s of coolish air complete my awakening.

It’s a good day to be alive.

cows watchingCows watch me curiously, slowly blinking as I pedal past. I blink back as I warm up to the second hill and the third. I haven’t met a car yet. I haven’t really thought about it. It’s quiet with only the birds chirping and the cows grazing. A hawk is startled from its perch as I go past. It looks at me sideways as it slowly flaps overhead. I notice how pretty the clouds are and smile. The initial longer climb greets me familiarly and I settle into my hill-training goal of the day. I concentrate on my breathing, the rhythm of the legs. Not too fast, not too hard, sit back, breathe evenly, focus right in front of you, feel the air, feel your sit-bones supporting you as you climb. There is nothing else. Just your breath, just the climb.

Heartrate steady I reach the top and happily push on without needing to recover. That is my goal: endurance. Climbing in control of my heartrate. It takes concentration. Enormous amounts of it when I get tired or distracted, but climbing this way means I can ride all day long.

… And I sometimes do.

I’m happy. My heart is singing inside as I turn and “Wheeeee” down a little decent. Shifting into the large chain ring – the legs make the most out of the higher gear. Then… I get to practice climbing out of the saddle. Just a little, not too much yet. It’s still early and there are many, many more miles to go. It’s only a little bump and I’m too lazy to shift down. I admire the view. Every climb has a view. Most make you wish you could take pictures with your eyes and send them to everyone.

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Looks flat? It’s not, trust me – that’s all downhill!

Rolling green hills, a big blue sky that goes on forever, and huge puffy white clouds that are thankfully providing welcome shade this morning. Twenty miles tick by quickly as wheels hum over pavement – up hills, down, and back up again. I’m keeping in my zone and sticking to my goal. This ride isn’t about fast. Fast will come with practice in this style. I’m climbing not quite as quickly as I could if I ‘sprinted’ the hill (as my norm), but I’m climbing more efficiently. I am gaining strength and endurance.

These are my content thoughts as I strip off my embarrassingly sweaty gloves at the country store. Sweat splashes onto the pavement, wrung from the same gloves. A couple of Harleys are pulled up in front. One of the Bikers eyes my gloves and says to me: “Nice day, don’t expire out there, now”. We exchange a few pleasantries about the heat and which roads are nice to ride. I walk inside – into the freezer. It feels good, but not for long. Just long enough to grab some fluids. Face wiped, sunglasses cleaned, a few gels, and water bottles filled I click into my pedals and spin away. More climbing, more views, more concentration.

More peace.

I know every road, every pebble, every crack, and the exact line to take on that bumpy decent after the hardest climb of the day. It never gets old. At least; not on mornings like this. I am grateful. I am grateful that I can be active. I am grateful to have a bike to ride, good food to eat, and a nice bed to sleep in. It’s the little things that we forget to be thankful for… I silently thank every single cloud that hovers above and shelters me from the sun that hasn’t quite gotten worked up to a good burn yet. It’s still early. The summertime is the only time I pray for clouds and I’m thankful for a stiff breeze.

The miles roll by and the hills arch their backs up to meet my wheels like a cat – anxious to be petted.

I’m less sweaty now and the air is getting hot. My internal clock is telling me that the sun is working up to the ‘Burn’ and it’s time to go home. I rest a minute in the shade. I can see the air dancing above the pavement as I rub out the sting from the bottom of my feet. My legs tell me I can do many miles more, my stomach wants a popsicle, and my feet want to go home.

20150822_131623I head home.

I can count them exactly. Precisely two hills between me, my front porch, and a cold popsicle. A car drives slowly by as if the owner is concerned that a lone crazed cyclist might not make it into town. I smile as the last few miles march grimly by, faster than before. I’m like a horse that has been pointed towards the barn, the closer I get, the faster I go. There’s no shade now although it’s over an hour before noon. It’s summer time in Texas – even the clouds have given up and scampered away. The sun has turned into a laser beam on the very last hill as I focus on my goal, sit up, and concentrate on breathing … and a popsicle.

It’s been a good day.

cycology buddha
Cycology Gear

Rubber Side Down – Bike Crashes & Lessons Learned

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Keep it Rubber Side Down!

As I’m recovering from my 4th concussion (3rd bike-related) and have suddenly found myself with a bit of free time thanks to doctor’s orders: I thought I’d share a few cycling-related accident insights – both past and present, as well as a few lessons learned. There’s a saying, if you ride a bike, you’ll crash, it’s just a matter of when. Sounds morbid, but it’s reality. Very few avid cyclists get through life without hitting the deck at least once, especially if you happen to ride frequently in urban areas or race. Most of those I ride with have at least one scar that comes along with a story.

Some are working on a collection.

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Sweaty Betty: Cycling in Summer

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Oh boy, can I sweat in the summer! Not the delicate dew and occasional lady-like bead of sweat…. Nope. I’m a dripping soaked mess. My jersey weighs at least 8 lbs when I take it off. I can wring sweat out of my gloves after about 25 miles in 87+ degree heat. I’m constantly redirecting sweat out of my eyes and there’s a steady drip off of my chin. At least my feet don’t sweat, but it’s a good thing that I wear tall socks to prevent my feet from being soaked from the small stream that develops on my shins….

In short: it’s gross.

FB_IMG_1439074828449Regardless of your feelings about excessive sweatiness – there’s a plus side to it (especially if you live where it’s hot)! In my home state of Texas, in particular: it gets CRAZY hot. Silly hot. So hot you can fry eggs on the hood of your car. It’ll have you hunting for shelter at about 11:00 am and the sun feels like it’s drilling holes in your skin through your jersey. It’s the only time of year that I am praying for a breeze and the heat from the pavement almost melts the soles of your shoes. BUT, because I’m a Sweaty Betty – I stay relatively cool as long as I’m sweating.

That gross sweat is the key to survival in summer heat.

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Tips from a Road Trip

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A mysterious thing happens after about a week and a half on vacation… you finally begin to truly relax! Since I was extremely fortunate to squeeze two whole weeks of bike vacation fun into a family road trip – it has afforded me some insights into traveling and touring with a bike, plus a few bits of wisdom about everyday life. Some are particularly important if you happen to be touring with someone else, as I did (with my hubby). A few can help you after you get back to the rat-race…

In no particular order, are a few Tips from my Road Trip:

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Why Competition is Good for You

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Competition is good for you and the sport of bike racing. Why? Well, imagine how boring it would all be if we showed up on the same team? It also helps promote more events, sponsors, and bike-related activities. There is only so much one team can cover. Most local amateur bike racing teams are not owned and operated by someone that focuses solely on bike racing all day. Typically they are either bike-shop sponsored or company sponsored teams with a very few that are individually owned. In other words: most team owners and managers have a day job.

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Biking with your Beloved

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If you are one of those folks that has a cycling enthusiast for a significant other; this article is for you! As my husband and I met through our mutual love of cycling. Of course we ride as often as we can, when not doing stuff to pay bills and afford more bikes (N+1×2).

Cycling can get expensive when there is two of you – just FYI.

2 bikes in bedAnother consideration when you bike with your beloved is your cycling compatibility. This can be crucial to a harmonious relationship. Some seriously nasty fights have begun because of a partner’s insensitivity or obliviousness to the other’s needs on a ride. Cycling can be a dangerous sport and especially when I’m low on sugar and high in miles when my Hubby decides to up the tempo. So, it’s important to understand one another’s needs so that you can be there to support one another.

There are Pro’s and Con’s to cycling with your Hunny.

Continue reading Biking with your Beloved

Why Teams are Terrific

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What makes being a part of a team so great and why shouldn’t a person just race as an independent? I hadn’t really given it much thought before – but a couple months ago I was given clarity.

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So: You Think You Suck

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We’ve all been there… You are riding strong, feeling great, racing well, and then: BAM! Something happens, life gets in the way, or whatever – and you feel like you have to fight your way back. I get it. Unfortunately, I understand all too well. You might say to yourself: “I’m not good enough” – or you think you suck. It’s hard and we are our own worst critics! You want to be back where you were, but that doesn’t happen overnight. Or worse yet, you are really struggling and you don’t know why.

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Saddle Sagas

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It’s a fact that discomfort will impact performance. Some of the key target areas are where the human body comes in contact with our 2-wheeled steeds of freedom – in particular: the saddle. For women: the choice of saddle is a Big Deal for reasons I don’t think are necessary to point out here. I know that finally landing (literally) on a saddle that works for me was a journey that included several painful disappointments, many misdirection’s thanks to mindless marketing, as well as significant (and potentially unnecessary) investments.

Here’s my saddle saga…

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Rules of Country Riding

rules of the road

Normally I write articles from a competitive cycling point of view (more or less), but this article is applicable regardless if you race or not. As a matter of fact – maybe it’s especially applicable for those who are competitive cyclists. I have found that, even though one might be brave enough to pin a number on and rub elbows in a sprint … it doesn’t mean that one is completely aware of a few foundational rules of the road, so to speak.

Continue reading Rules of Country Riding