The email I sent out early in the week was short and to the point, “We should plan on a ride this week. It’s supposed to be 73 and sunny on Friday. We’d be stupid not to. I could be there by 1:30.” Weeds and Yoder were in. As Friday drew near, I was increasingly more apprehensive of the weather. It’s been cold, rainy and windy around here and I wasn’t excited about yet another ride like that. On the drive up to Des Moines, I talked to Johnny Rocket who was 76 miles into a century somewhere in Virginia on Day 3 of his Trans American ride. His century was made up of a hilly terrain and a headwind. It was exactly where I wanted to be. Filled with a special feeling, jealousy, I tried to focus on the 30-40 miles I get to ride with some of my favorite people. Yoder, RG, the bass player and New Zealand were waiting for me at the trail head. We rode west to connect to the Raccoon River Valley Trail leading west. It was about 70 degrees…beautiful. Weeds rode to meet us on the trail with a tip. The wind would be challenging on the ride back east. The wind was noticeable and coming from the SE. We continued west to Waukee and onto Adel. Weeds warned me not to blow my wad early. He kindly offered me a wheel to suck. When I refused the generous offer, he promptly dropped me. I pushed hard to Adel wondering if maybe he’s part machine.
While regrouping at Rendezvous, we made unconcerned jokes about the wind we would be facing eastbound. The portion of the trail from Adel to Waukee is a combination of tree-lined stretches and wide open stretches with a low-grade, barely perceivable incline eastbound. I’ve been pushed up this “hill” twice. Ancient history, I reminded myself. I committed myself to finding more strength this year through conditioning and my usual stubborn approach to obstacles. I saddled up without any fear. Once on the trail, I knew I was looking at winds similar to those on the ride I did a couple of weeks ago on the road when Naked tried to poison me with an old, rank smoothie. This would be shorter and not hilly, but that incline would certainly add some challenge to the windy ride.
It was tough in the trees. It was tougher in the open. I fought. My legs were burning and my speeds were between 11 mph and 13 mph before arriving in Waukee. The winds were between 23-26 mph. There were gusts upping the ante. I tried to get as small as I could. I rode in the drops. I fought the urge to get into a low gear. I was at a 45 degree angle leaning into the wind blasting at me from the SE. I focused on my quads. I pushed and pulled. I felt like I was using a huge amount of force to keep my glutes planted firmly on my seat. Why didn’t I use Chamois Cream?? Aaarrrgh. With about 3 miles to Waukee, my angle became even tighter. My mouth felt like it was filled with sand. A drink of water seemed too risky. Both hands on the drops felt necessary to keep the bike on the road. Surely with only one hand on the bars I’d go airborne. I kept pushing, sorry for the smiling leisure riders coming toward me now that I know what they will be facing. I said nothing to them. I saved my energy for myself. I saw Legacy up ahead. There was less than a mile before I could stop to regroup. I gave it all I had in that last couple of minutes.
I fueled up with a chicken breast and spinach on rye. I washed it down with a beer and looked forward to the remaining 6 miles to the trail head. The wind was still bucking, but the rest and food gave me new strength. We were pushing around 16 mph for the stretch before we parted ways. I continued solo on the last few miles, with some tree cover and several trail-goers, slowing my pace. I wasn’t complaining. Despite my complete lack of directional abilities, I managed to get to the trail head without incident.
The hour-ride home gave me time to reflect on my first Friday Ride with the boys of the season. We were a couple of Friday Riders short, but it was a great first Friday. A little sunburned and a little battered from the wind, I am reminded of how much I love to ride and how much fun it is to ride with my friends.
I headed out for a
50 40 mile ride. It was about 70 degrees and sunny. The roads weren’t too busy with cars and I was riding fast toward Newton despite the hills that make up the landscape. Out of habit, I turned toward Sully at mile 15 and was kissed hello by a headwind that almost blew me backward up the hill. I locked into my biggest gear and pedaled down the hill trying to build the momentum to keep me headed east up the hills to Sully. My lungs were screaming for mercy as I crawled up and down the rollers to Sully. I kept going, hopeful the wind would die down a bit. The cafe in Sully was closed until dinner time, so I hit up the Casey’s for some nourishment. I bought a smoothie made by Naked. I sat in the sun outside the store on a curb and guzzled it. It had some whey protein added, giving it that gritty and chalky quality. Before throwing the bottle away, I thought I’d just take a peek at the ingredients I’d just consumed at record speed. My eyes were fixed on the stamp on the neck of the bottle. “Enjoy by Mar 11 11.” Freekin’ fabulous.
20 miles from home, I have only one choice that I can see. I pointed Ira back the way we came and hoped for the best with that expired beverage thing. A couple of miles out of Sully, I stopped in a ditch to enjoy the not-expired, very drinkable beer that I purchased at Casey’s for just such a ditch. The people who lived at the end of the dirt road saw me, my bike laid down and walked up the road to see if I needed air or a patch. I drank my beer and they filled me in on some area roads that make for some good riding. Once again, I was reminded of how thoughtful and friendly my fellow Iowans are.
This good feeling was gone quickly when the 20-23 mph winds were trumped by 27-29 mph gusts that bucked me on the flats and the hills. There was no escape. I dug in. My lungs, earlier screaming for mercy, were in a constant state of duress. I just kept going. I was out of the saddle, in an attack position against this oppressive wind. I hardly even laughed when I saw a car in the driveway of a farmhouse with the words “For Sale $10 OBO” painted in the rear window. Even the half-laugh hurt. I turned my attention back to the task at hand. Ride these hills. Fight this wind. Better, Faster, Stronger. I stopped again after only 10 miles of battling the nefarious gusts.
I managed to pull off the last 10 miles of rollers and wind. Thankful for the 10 mile mistake by going to Sully, I arrived in town out of water and covered in a layer of salt rivaling the finest salt lick. If the expired Smoothie had any ill effects on me, I didn’t notice. My preoccupation was with the other elements contributing to the ride.
A quick nod to spring, these are the things I did notice:
- Fields of frogs croaking loudly
- Soybean seedlings
- The smell of burning leaves
- The smell of charcoal
- Buds on the trees
- Crocus flowers
- Dog walking
- My new sunburn
- Ditch drinking (Point of clarification~ I was the only one doing it)
It’s even windier today. I better get out there and show that wind who’s boss.
70-80 degree weather in Iowa during the first weekend in April sounds like a hallucination. It really happened. Of course, I wouldn’t know that from experience because I put my Viking britches on, strapped Ira to the Honda and headed north for the ArtCrank Minneapolis show and some good riding on the Minneapolis trail system. While extensive and amazing, my first shock was that while the weather was in the 50s and I was wearing riding shorts, there were piles of snow still accessorizing the route. I got over it pretty quickly and settled into my first Minneapolis ride. I grew up going to Minneapolis for this reason or that, yet it was all new from the view from the bike trails.
On Saturday, we did some riding on the trail as well as on the road. The Minneapolis trails were filled with the expected mixture of leisure riders that range from a man who looks like Santa Clause on vacation to weekend road warriors in pace lines and everyone in between. We kept a respectable pace for most of the ride, probably motivated knowing the first stop would bring all kinds of brunchy happiness. Our first destination on Saturday was Triple Rock Social Club. This is a punk bar with a stellar weekend breakfast menu. Upon arrival, I was shaking and a little faint from hunger. By this point, of course, it was dangerously close to early-bird dinner time. I ordered the Mother Trucker and possibly the hottest Bloody Mary I have ever had. I am the girl who eats raw jalepenos. I found this Bloody Mary marginally tolerable in terms of heat. I continue to feel weepy with respect. It took me well over an hour to drink the pint-sized Bloody Mary.
We rode on toward the ArtCrank show on Broadway. I understand this is in the Noreast part of the city. Directionally challenged and without points of reference, I happily went into follow mode. As was true on the trails, the streets of Minneapolis were full of people out enjoying the sunny 55 degree day, most notable to me, on bikes. It was getting darker, and consistent with past sins, I was sure that I wouldn’t need my lights Saturday night and left them behind. Right when we thought we needed to check our directions, we ran into a hipster on a fixie wearing rolled up jeans (I now see this as the standard protocol for city riding) who led us straight to Chris Sheehan’s Shelter Studios for the opening night party. The level of support for the show and the work was inspiring. The turnout would be difficult for me to estimate accurately. At the risk of losing credibility, I would say there were a few hundred people milling about in shifts. I like seeing this many people focused on bikes and art. It was a very cool scene. Although it was an unnecessary convenience, we utilized the bike racking provided in a quasi-valet fashion. I’ve included some of my favorite posters from the show taken from my phone, but you can see them all here.
We took in the experience and spent some time hanging around outside. Giving freely our contribution, raising the bar on the cool/badass contingency at the scene. We also took this opportunity to consider the severity of the decision to leave the lights behind on the day’s ride. We came to the conclusion that the bikes could overnight nearby at Booda’s place while we could catch a ride back to Eden Prairie with Joe, a Connecticut transplant to Minneapolis.
Morning brought with it a gut-twisting hunger. My last meal was the Mother Trucker and I was so weak I questioned my ability to stand upright in the shower without toppling over. I took a chance. I was successful. Disaster averted. We came up with a plan to eat, retrieve the bikes and get a ride in, all before the drive back to Iowa. We headed to Mother Earth in Edina for brunch. There was a 20-30 minute wait, so we wandered over to the bookstore to drool on pictures of fancy bikes in the bike magazines. After one of the best brunch experiences I’ve ever had, I thought I’d be smart and stop into the restroom before the ride. I find my way to the back and followed a woman through the door. I stood there, slow to pick up on the situation. Finally, the woman asked me if I wanted to go first. I had followed her, awkwardly close on her heels, into a one-person bathroom. “I’ll just wait outside,” was the best I could come up with. Yeah, my dignity was non-existent at this point.
Despite the fact that I was consumed with shame because of the bathroom incident, we were able to name Jon’s Surly Long Haul Trucker. Xerxes. Two xes in one name. It sounds like a Norse warrior’s name and is befitting the Surly now merely days from the Trans American trip from Virginia to Oregon.
The Sunday ride was a treat because we rode through some interesting parts of the city before picking up the trail. I saw the statue of Mary Tyler Moore tossing her hat up in the air. I see now that on my next visit, photographic documentation including me will be in order. I think Jon suggested I toss my bike helmet in the air next to the statue. Assuming I can manage the toss and catch, this sounds like an excellent way to pay tribute to Minneapolis for hosting me. We went by the sculpture park and I saw the branding icon for Minneapolis, a giant cherry in a giant spoon. The paths by the lakes were packed with people and we pressed on, heading south to Eden Prairie.
A few miles before the end of the ride, we stepped it up for the final stretch and dropped a dude swanked out in a race kit. It’s funny because Jon got to see the look on his face when he realized he was being dropped by a girl with braids and a guy on a racked and fendered touring bike. I felt great when we reached the car. Per usual, I was immediately ready to go again.
Yeah, I know what you are thinking. I live a very glamorous life. Friday night at the gym is a treat. The energy is rock bottom but a few people who, like me, decide to forego a happy hour or nice dinner, and opt instead for a couple of hours in a gym.
This group of like-minded folks are an unlikely grouping. It’s not as angst laden as the Breakfast Club or as one-dimensional as the castaways on Gilligan’s Island. This is a team of people who I cannot say with confidence could stand up and fight together as a team should the need arise.
- Justin Bieber’s lookalike. All dictators and celebrities keep them on retainer for purposes of alibi corroboration, mass mis-direction and paparazzi hooliganism. The JB lookalike at my gym continues to work on his fitness. His hair remains unaffected by his efforts all the while he’s thinking, “put me in coach.”
- The mustache man on the elliptical wearing a polo shirt. He has it right with the trainers and the sweat pants, but the collared shirt is screaming “I’m not from around here.” This mustache man’s distinctive style on the elliptical looks like he’s riding a stand up jet ski. As if the elliptical has momentum of its own, he’s attempting to steer the thing and looks both elated and distressed.
- The very elderly woman on the treadmill in jeans. She’s not training. She is out, after dinner, getting a little circulation therapy and fighting the good fight against bone density loss. While I find the cardio loft to be just this side of intolerably hot when I’m wearing a tank top and shorts, she is covered, wrist to toes. Her shirt is tightly buttoned against her neck.
- The personal trainer. This guy is very personable. Naturally optimistic, he appears a little lost without a few people looking to him for guidance and encouragement. Already red-faced and soaked, I look away when he tries to catch my eye. As nice as he is, this socializing while dripping and panting just won’t work for me.
- The employee with Friday night plans. Our very existence offends this young lady. She’s mopping and cleaning and doing her very best to ensure that she will be locking the doors as she walks out the doors with those of us who clearly need to find a life.
- Me. Clearly someone trying to crush all the week’s frustrations underfoot. Red, sweaty and wheezing ever so slightly, I am exuding the don’t look at me, talk to me or otherwise be decent vibe. I’m fully submerged in my bubble in an effort to channel everything I’ve got into my legs. If anyone does dare to peep my way, they are overcome with internal conflict. Call for medical attention or run away?
It is now Saturday morning. I have slept on this and I’m a little disappointed I didn’t have an opportunity to organize this unwitting group into a noteworthy posse. Next Friday I’m taking down names.
Bike bike bike. I woke up too early Saturday morning to the sound of snoring and sore muscles. It sounds like RAGBRAI, but I realized pretty quickly that this was my dog, Murph, sawing wood. I was disappointed for a minute before remembering this was the day I was taking a road trip. Outstanding.
BRR is Bike Ride to Rippey. It’s a 24 mile round trip bike ride from Perry, IA to Rippey, IA that has now been running 34 years annually. More than 1000 riders were expected. I think that this was an accurate estimate. This ride has never been cancelled due to weather. As I’d been jonesing for some outdoor rides, I can’t think of anything short of the apocalypse that could have kept me from riding.
I had my loaner mountain bike loaded onto Team Wrong’s bus in Johnston by 8:30. Team Wrong’s bus was set up beautifully with a fantastic sound system, full bike racking on top and a cooler made out of a deep freeze that also was set up to accommodate a couple of kegs with the taps on the outside of the bus. Coolest part – I made new friends.
The ride was flat with a couple of turns. The ride started at 10 AM, but I think we were in Perry until almost 12. In true RAGBRAI style, I had no watch and didn’t pull out my phone. Because I was on a loaner, I had no bike computer keeping track of stuff. I did put lights on the bike, but was responsible enough to be back at the bus before dark. Kudos to me on that one.
The highway was clear, but the roads in town were a good reason to leave the road bike at home. The weight of the bike and the friction from grip of the nobbies on the pavement gave me a pretty good workout despite my slower speeds. I didn’t put my pedals on the mountain bike, so I wasn’t clipped in. It felt very strange to be untethered to the bike, but I somehow managed.
The turn at highways E57 and P54 are a traditional stop for many Brr riders. We took a break there with an old friend and even made time for a couple of pictures. The balmy 34 degrees gave us the opportunity to take our time and have a few laughs before arriving in Rippey.
Once we got to Rippey, Team Wrong had the bus rockin’ with a dance party. The Sir Mix-A-Lot may have been a little before my time, (ahem I’m way younger than that) but I managed to catch on and shake my groove thing with the 30-somethings.
We saddled back up for the return ride. My friend pulled out some ostrich jerky that I inhaled just before arriving at the turn to Perry. Once again, it was a full ditch of bikes and good times, hosted this time by Team Medium Pace.
There was a failed attempt at fishing a beer out of a stranger’s backpack on the road back to Perry. I couldn’t help but think an effort like this would only lead to some ugliness and scrapes on bikes and bodies. I gave up after about 3 minutes of pawing around. We got into Perry, loaded up the bus downtown and headed back to Des Moines dancing the whole way.
It’s always a treat to ride with my friends. A big thank you to the town of Perry, the Perry Chamber of Commerce and Rippey for such a cool ride. Team Wrong deserves accolades for the lift and good time. The two most important words I have regarding the BRR Ride or any future winter ride, ventilated layers. Zippered neck lines are brilliant, just sayin’.
To see more pictures, the Des Moines Register has some pictures from the ride that you can look at here if you want to take a peek.
So I’m thinking growing fins is not going to happen before my first triathlon. I can live without them, I guess, but I continue to flounder (sorry) in the pool as I train for Copper Creek. I’m pulling off the distance and then some. I’m using freestyle and not floating the distance on my back or any other equally passive stroke. All of this still results in me feeling like I’m dragging an anchor behind me as I swim up and down the lane at my local pool.
On the bike, I concentrate on the burning in my hamstrings. It feels good and I keep pushing. Running, I focus on my breath and the rhythm of my feet as they hit the ground I get into a groove and I just keep going.
In the pool, it’s just not natural. I’m thinking about all the snot produced from a mere 100 meters of swimming. Then I think about the number of people swimming and the distances covered. This leads me to do some crazy math in my head to determine the water to snot to chlorine ratios at any given time in the pool. Now I’m thinking about my crappy goggles getting fogged and the fact that I don’t ever remember swimming laps in a pool before I started training to complete a triathlon. I was more of an open swim kind of gal. Scratch that, I was a water-skier. The swimming was a bi-product.
What am I doing? Who do I think I am getting in the water to swim fast? Please, don’t call me to answer that. I have water in my good ear so I can’t hear and have no sense of volume so I am very loud. Don’t text me either. My eyes are burning from the chlorine and snot that have advanced past the protective suction of my goggles so I can’t see very well.
Tomorrow begins a recovery week during which I will train very lightly and work on my attitude. Next week, I will swim faster and think less.
Today, after I added the 6 new marks to my list of my visible defects on the skin, I decided it was time to let go. Instead of replaying the mistakes leading to disfigurement, I will look at these as evidence. This will remind me that I was in it. I tried. It’s not over. I’m still in the game and these aren’t even setbacks. I get these because I try not to give myself the opportunity to opt out or worse, go halfway. Yes, I am an adult woman who still has skinned elbows and knees but I am not on the sidelines. I am ok with that.
- 6 from the bike fall in October (user failure)
- 1 little one from the fall before that (too fast on the curve, leaned too far with the pedal in a 6 o’clock position)
- 1 from a gravel mishap
- 1 from my bike gear (looks like the large cog)
- 3 from a cat (passes for a run in with Freddie Krueger)
- 1 from an ice mishap
- 2 from removed moles
- 2 from piercings
- 1 from a cyst
- 2 from burns
- 30+ from 2 surgeries resulting from a ski accident
- 3 from a hurdling accident
- 1 from a barbed wire fence
- 1 from a chicken pock
Total: 55+ visible scars