Sunday, October 24, 2010

Still Alive

For those of you who have wondered (or care) why so long since the last post, let's just say a whole lotta life got in the way!!!

Moving forward, the season changes and duties of homeschool mom and healthcare overseer of parents has limited my time outdoors.  I will still post from time to time when I get a chance to ride, but for now, my focus is on a new venture - my first triathlon!!!

I've created a blog for just such a purpose, and will be updating there.  Feel free to join and follow!!!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cripple Fly Ranch Road

I talked Jim into a ride this evening up Cripple Fly Ranch Road.  No, I did not make that name up, it really is a road in rural WV.  It's a 1 mile climb up non paved, gravel road.  The climb is pretty hard, I used to think it must be akin to Mt. Everest - until I met Vomit Hill.  Now I just call it Mount Everest Junior.

This road was my first ride outside of my yard back in May.  I thought I was going to die before I got halfway up.  I stopped on the way and almost didn't make it back on the bike because it was up hill (and we all know I struggle getting back on the bike up hill.)  I thought to myself, "I will never get the hang of this and be able to breathe at the same time!"  But we kept at it and saw improvement.  Then we ventured out to other trails, Vomit Hill, rattlesnake trail, and of course, the great single tracks at Stonewall Jackson - which were not a success, but still.

On the ride, I realized I can balance myself and adjust my shirt or my sun glasses, without a major spill.  Do you realize what an accomplishment this is?  I've been working on my balance, lateral lunges, sideways sprints on the treadmill, etc.  When I first started, I gripped those handlebars like they were gonna save me from ever falling.  Boy did I get that wrong!!!

I decided to implement my new breathing techniques - in through the nose, out through the mouth, no panting.  The climb was tough - my quads were screaming - but I didn't grip my handlebars. Slow and steady, keep breathing, push down on the handlebars (still don't know why), "lasso" a landmark up ahead.  We made it to the top with our best time ever!!!  I resisted the urge to let go and pant even then.  Wow, what accomplishments we've both made in the past few months!

The ride down was a bit scary, it's pretty dry here and the stones were flying.  I decided to keep a tight grip on my brakes, my whole body tense.  Now that I have the hang of relaxing on the climb, I've gotta work at it on the sail back down!  Jim was flying, and I want to note right here that this is a remote, wooded area.  Sometimes we'll encounter a car.  Jim has made me promise not to ride here without him.  I wonder what he thinks flying down the hill, around several curves, and out of sight is?!?  I could've wrecked and he'd have never known!  Maybe he's gaining confidence in me, that'd be something, seeing as how he's observed me at my worse.

Afterwards, I rode up my driveway and around the house, down the hill and into my mom's yard.  The first time I ever did that I was scared out of my mind.  I split my mom's little flower patch wide open, mowed down a gladiola, unearthed a rock, and fell over. Daughter #1 sitting on the porch above me heard the ruckus, jumped up and yelled, "MOM!!!"  Of course I ran back and propped up the flower before mom saw it.  "Mamw's right there!"  She was sitting on her porch facing the opposite direction, but she can't hear too well, so that worked to my advantage that time.  "I don't know if you need to ride a bike or not...." If only that kid knew what was to come, huh?!?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

An unexpected crash of a different sort

What a beautiful day!  Jim and I took our two youngest for a trail ride.  My youngest daughter (we'll call her daughter #3) is a good rider with a good bit of experience. Daughter #2 is new to the mountain biking scene so we weren't sure how she'd do. We picked the trail I learned on - nothing drastic, dual track, very scenic, all wooded area beside a creek.  The only thing a little hard is the gradual climb, but the reward is the coast back down! It's 6.5 miles round trip.

Jim appointed me the leader (the person with the shortest legs and the smallest bike), the girls came next, with him the rear.  Everyone in the family is taller than me.  Daughter #3 (the tallest daughter out of my three girls)  was in the rear with Jim.  She kept running into her sister, who would inform me that I needed to go "just a tiny bit faster".  I had to pump my stubby legs pretty hard in order to keep ahead of the gang!

Daughter #2 is a like me in a lot of ways, and we're finding out that includes riding skills.  We both have trouble pushing off and getting the bike started.  We both find railroad ties a challenge, single tracks are scary, and we don't always have the most graceful stops.  Today was no exception.  I had lots of trouble getting started after we'd take a break.  Everyone else would push off and then I'd hop back off.  I'd hear them brake, stop, and run into each other (with a few groans, as in, "Oh not again."). It was actually kinda funny, I got a kick out of that. 

On the railroad ties, I guess I went too slow (Jim says I've still got to get more momentum) and they were all struggling to stay up. I heard a few grumbles there, but I was looking ahead to the group of people waiting for us to pass, not wanting to look like a fool and wreck in front of them.

The trip was a success all around, though.  No one wrecked, we enjoyed the coast back down, and stopped to check out the views of the New River below. 

Upon our arrival back home, Jim told us all to ride around in the driveway to check our gears.  Mine had been knocked out, so my chain was loose.  The girls were behind me on their bikes, my parents - who were walking the lane - heading towards me.  I tried to hurry up before mom and dad came near enough for me to run them over (they're getting tottery, they don't need any help).  I pushed off, distracted with the chain.  When I looked back up, I was headed off the pavement, over the bank, and towards 2 bushes tightly clumped together (one of them full of long briars).  I yelled, forged through, all the while thinking, "I never ever would've picked these bushes to ride through intentionally".  I felt thorns rake along my arms, one long rope-like strand stretching from both bushes catching me under my chin.  I imagined that "rope" snatching me off my bike and keeping me suspended like in the movies.  I could hear my girls giggling and I was too as soon as I got through the mess.  Jim just stood there shaking his head, my mom worrying about my scratches, while I rode off down the lane laughing hysterically.

Talk about random, it looked like I just took off and decided to squeeze myself through bushes just for the fun of it!  I'm still laughing as I write this.  Talk about ridiculous.  I bet my mom is going to worry now every time I get on that bike...if she only knew, huh?!?  She hasn't taken a gander at my bruised legs from last weekend's single track fiasco! (She doesn't know about the blog, nobody tell her, please!)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Vomit Hill

I knew what Andrea had up her sleeve today when she met me for our ride.  She told me she'd already ridden around the neighborhood and now she knew FOR SURE where we were going, and how to get out of there.  We were going up Vomit Hill.  She had done this a few times in the previous weeks.  This would be my first.  We tried once before, (with my heavy mountain bike) and I quit right off the bat.  We rode the bottom of it last week - that's when we named it Vomit and Diarrhea Hill.  Today, we were goin' all the way to the top.  It's a scary view from down below.

As I said before, I got a light hybrid so I could road ride.  This baby is so light it's like a song!  We took off at our regular pace, warming up first before the big climb.  I knew this was coming so I did a little research on hill climbing last night. 

The basics I got out of it were:  try not to pant like a dog -  get some steady rhythm to your breathing.  Push all the way through the pedals, not just down, keeping momentum.  Also, when pushing the pedals down, push down on the handlebars - but don't GRIP LIKE CRAZA!!!  I'm not sure what that does, but I tried to do it so I could focus on not passing out.  Fix your eyes on a reference point, and pretend to "lasso" it, an imaginary rope pulling you toward that point.  Once there, pick something else.  Lastly, don't power through in higher gears just 'cause you can stand on your pedals.  This will tire you out for the long haul, conserve your energy and gear down, take it slow and steady.

We started up.  This is not a straight hill.  This hill curves several times and reminds me of one of those winding staircases.  We geared down.  I felt myself starting to pant recklessly, and told myself to get a grip.  I found a rhythm coinciding with my pedaling - breathing in the nose, out the mouth.  I had to pass Andrea, sounding like Darth Vader as I went by. "You're doing great, you're doin' it!" She cheered.  Half way up, I was dying, reminding myself to keep the breathing under control, push through the pedals, and push down on the handlebars (who knows why, it kept me occupied).  I "lassoed" a white PVC pipe sticking up out of the ground.  Made it past that, and the stop sign was the next goal, at the top of the hill!
I reached the top and forgot all about my breathing, gasping for air and maybe an extra oxygen tank lying around.  I DID it!!!  (I had also researched how to get back on up a steep hill, hoping against hopes I wouldn't have to stop!!)

The rest of the ride was great except for that last killer hill (the one I pushed my mountain bike up the first time).  Now you have to know that I did finally do legs yesterday - weighted squats and side lunges.  So I was pretty sore, especially in the derriere, but I was trying to implement our target (the buttox) by leaning forward in my seat on this climb.  It got painful (it was a very long climb) and I tried sitting up, but that hurt my already sore thighs as well.  I assumed the former position, when a very slow, big truck carrying an inloader sped up the hill, then slowed to a crawl right beside us!!!  It was very unnerving, very rude, and he knew what he was doing - JERK!  I saw Andrea swerve when he got up beside her.  He made the last part of our last climb of the day TORTURE!

After he finally moved on and we got up that hill, Andrea and I trashed him.  Of all the nerve, who would do that to a couple of girls just minding their own business, just trying to BREATHE!!!  UHG!!!

Aside from the jerk, this was a great day for me.  I conquered Vomit Hill!!!  I can now sleep at night.  What's the next goal?  Well, I'm sure I'll think of something - or someone else will think of it for me!  At least I didn't choke up a lung - sheesh!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Kind riding friend has the patience of Job

I haven't told you about my friend Aimee.  She is the one who patiently taught me to ride, and was with me when I rode my first rails to trails.  There are poles at the intersections where trail meets public road.  About 10 feet from the poles I would start weaving every time, usually tipping the bike at the pole.  If I knew there was a landmark I was supposed to go around, I went toward it every time.  Her very sound advice was to always look ahead 15 feet and not focus on the ONE THING I wanted to avoid.

The other thing I did was grip the handlebars like mad.  At first I did this constantly.  I was so scared and tense!  "Relax your hands, are your knuckles white?" she would say.  Of course then the closer that pole came, the harder I gripped.

Poor Aimee.  That first ride, I was so scared to stop the bike for fear of never getting started again!  It took me about 5 tries every time.  I stared straight ahead, too, no looking around for me.  "Just relax, you're doing great!"  She was so kind.  So pitifully kind.

We went to the beach together and took our bikes.  Jim would take the lead, Aimee in the rear, with me in the middle, they were my armored guard.  "Car's coming..." She would say.  I went immediately into weave mode, trying not to hit it as it passed.  We turned right, down a short street, Jim took a quick, unexpected left, Aimee and I went right. She used her expertise turning skills.  I hadn't yet learned sharp turning skills, so in my attempt, I took a turn into a square of gravel, which turned out to be a pit (Jim says this was a freshly graveled parking area, I say it was a trap).  I ground harder and harder till I got stuck and toppled over, Jim and Aimee chuckling.

The two of them traded off babysitting so I would have someone with me at all times.  He got daring and took me to the front of the street, around civilization (and cars).  Around a gas station, small strip mall, and down the next street.

I took Aimee for a spin around the gas station once, just to show her I could.  We passed a curve with a berm and guess who got their pedal caught on it.  It was a possible crash, but I righted myself.  Of course, Aimee, ever kind, says, "I've done that before!"

On a morning jaunt, Jim and I rounded a curve and turned down a block with a stop sign at the end.  He should've known better than to change his mind at the last minute about heading onto the next street.  I didn't know whether to stop or go, so I ran into the stop sign and toppled over.  "I'm ok!" I yell.  He shakes his head, again in wonder at what he's gotten himself into.

Later, we head back up that same street, and a guy comes jogging by, making a WIDE berth around us.  He yells, "Are you ok?  I saw you crash the stop sign earlier!"  Marvelous.  Someone was watching.

Next morning, not realizing we're headed down the same street, I hear a voice from above: "Hey, watch that stop sign."  I realize he's watching me - not God, the guy from yesterday!  He's up on his porch, which is where he saw me yesterday.  I coast through the sight of the accident - "Good job!" says the voice from above.  I told Jim, "Remind me never to come down this street again."

Aimee and I got to ride about a month ago, and she was so pleased with my progress!  "It's just so much fun watching you learn, seeing you progress in your confidence in yourself!"  What a cheerleader she is.  This is a girl that rides that rattlesnake trail like it's nothing.  I saw her once after a bad wreck.  She was bruised head to toe and had some pretty bad gashes.  Does she ever quit?  Heck, no!  The girl's 6 months pregnant and finally just hung up her bike!!! Her words to me after the great rattlesnake "real mountain bike trail" ride:  "I hope this doesn't discourage you from going back.  Rarely do you ever see a snake when riding like that."  Now THAT'S who I wanna be like!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Straps bikes on, will travel (and get myself in more trouble)

Over the past couple months I've been working to perfect this art.  The first time I got my bike on the rack, I was so exuberant I just had to take a ride somewhere, not in my yard.  I begged one of my children to go with me, even though she didn't yet have a bike.  I told her we'd pick up a friend for her!

We headed to the YMCA soccer complex. There were large rigs, it looked like the carnival had come to town.  The crew was working on setting up the rides, there were lots of people (some rather rough looking) getting the place ready.  I rode and rode around that thing, all the while looking for the famed "bike trail" that was supposed to be behind the complex.  I couldn't spot it anywhere, but I did see where the pavement dipped off into an old gravel road.  That surely must be it, I thought.  After about 5 turns around the place and eyeballing that road, I decided to try it.  There were men working near there, and I tried to look like I knew where I was going.

This was some steep road!  Very rough, graveled, rivuleted road, immediately surrounded by deep woods and no sounds of civilization. Ever hear of the book, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe", by C.S. Lewis? It felt like I'd just stepped through the wardrobe into another world. "Wow!" I thought.  "This is pretty rough!" It kept a steep desent, down, down, down!  The more I rode, the rougher it got, and I thought I was gonna take a pretty bad spill more than once.  I could hear things in the woods.  Live, animal things.  And little waterfalls - or I was hoping all that rustling was waterfalls (I was thinking bear at this point).  I took this road for about half a mile, wondering when this "trail" was going to start back up - towards the complex.  I saw another curve up ahead and still more downward layout, and I decided to stop. 

I was scared by this time.  I decided to push the bike back up, the road was so steep and rough.  As soon as I started up, something HUGE flew out of the bushes to my right, and I ducked in fright!  I saw the hind end of some big bird fly to the other side of the road into the trees.  I tried running and pushing past that scary place, when two more GIANT flying things took off in the same direction!  I later learned these were most likely wild turkeys.  Of course, this info from my husband, who was excited I'd seen the turkeys.  That's the hunter coming out in him. He loves wild things in the woods.

I pushed/ran for what seemed like forever.  I came to one spot that was somewhat level and decided I HAD to get back on the bike and ride up the way I came down so I wouldn't look like a big baby who bit off more than she could chew.  Of course I was, but noone else needed to know that.

I came riding victoriously out of that place, and boy, was I GLAD to be around people again!  I saw my daughter and her friend coming toward me.  "Mom!!!  I was so worried!  You waved at us every time you came around, and then, I didn't see you anymore!  Where did you go?  I thought maybe some of the scary circus people took you!!!" (She forgot it was a carnival.)

I later learned this trail was two miles of steep descent and not for the faint of heart. It would have put me out in a place called Glade Creek, which was definitely NOT the soccer complex.  I found out where the real bike trail was.  The end of it was in the wide spot where I climbed back on to my triumphant ride out of that wild and scary place.  I was WAY off!!!

Tonight, I strapped on not only my own bike, but my two youngest daughter's (bikes, not the girls), and off we went for a little jaunt about 10 minutes from the house.  I have to say, for a couple of teenagers, they sure were ready to quit a lot sooner than I expected.  Oh well, after they've ridden Vomit Hill and maybe a few root ridden, rocky, rattlesnake trails, they'll be ready to hang with their ole mom!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

NOT riding - just recouperating and reflecting

I awoke this morning to a sore, aching body, but man, did I sleep well! We had a scrumptuous breakfast down in the Stillwaters buffet for a total of at least 20,000 calories between that and last night's feast. It was a beautiful drive back home on this crisp, fall like day. 

We even saw the famous mountain goat that lives on the rocks above the interstate near Flatwoods. I don't think he's really a mountain goat, but he thinks he is. The story goes that he was once owned by a local farmer, but was too mean to tame and kept getting out.  He finally got fed up with the ornery thing and let it go.  It just stays up there on those rocks around the area feeding all the time.  Jim and I have both seen it several times while passing through. He's pretty fat, so I guess he's doing ok.  I mentioned as much to Jim.  "Well, goats eat everything - weeds, briars, grass, they're not picky."  He replied.  "What do they drink?"  I brainlessly asked.  What a stupid question. "What do they drink?!?" Jim was incredulous, and I knew it was coming.  "Well, every once in a while some of them go down to the local GoMart for a cherry 7-up."  That's why I married him - he's quick on the draw, and funny as all get-out.

When we got home and unloaded, I noticed the giant box of granola bars we bought at Sam's in anticipation of our great riding adventures.  We ate one the whole time.  Not even we.  Just "he". 

I forgot my beloved pillow back at the resort.  I'll be in mourning for nights.... 

You need to know that I'm very much a girly-girl.  People who know me are probably stunned that I've taken up this biking hobby.  I like my nails done.  I like a little makeup, usually don't go anywhere without my hair fixed and never was a tomboy.  Yesterday on my first spill, I almost ripped my fake nail off.  I had accidentally thrown my contacts in the trash as soon as we got there, so I had to wear my ritzy J-Lo glasses the whole time.  They have little fake diamonds on the sides.  I was almost as scared I would break them during one of my falls as I was scared of encountering a rattlesnake.

Yes, I said I threw away my contacts.  This is nothing new for me.  I'm always accidentally throwing away valuable stuff.  Once, I threw away 150 bucks during my son's birthday party.  Just cleaning up paper dishes and trash, it went in the compactor and I never knew it. We finally figured it out a week later.  The day we got my road bike I came home and threw away my cell phone. I was throwing away  the tags I'd just taken off my bike, my cell was in the same hand.  Later I had to dial it twice to figure out where that remote ringing sound was coming from - none other than the garbage compactor.  I did not tell Jim this right away.  He's well aware of my track record.

Jim and I are working on this bike hobby because one day we realized the kids were growing up.  It's like we woke up and they were all teens and young adults!  We decided we better start doing something together or we'd just end up staring at one another after they were gone.  I'm a die hard gym rat.  He hates working out but loves to hunt and be outside.  We made a compromise, and I'm SO glad we did!  It has really brought us together - finally, we share something that gets us physically fit, yet we both enjoy it.

I'm so glad we decided on biking, even though Jim has had his share of scares with me.  It has truly brought us closer.  We're working on our health so we can hopefully have many more happy years together!