Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Riding to work?

I have fantastic news.

In one month, my company will be moving our offices out of Chinatown. Sorry, I just need to write that one more time. My company will be moving our offices OUT of Chinatown. Oh God that feels good.

The new office building is located in Liberty Square. And for those of you thinking to yourselves "Where the hell is Liberty Square?", here you go! If you aren't into clicking on links for some reason, I'll just tell you. Liberty square is right between the financial district and Faneuil hall.

Along with the fact that we will no longer be residing in arguably the dirtiest part of Boston, we will also have the entire seventh floor of the new building to ourselves. This gives us our own bathrooms (no longer sharing toilets with the Golden Age Asian Alliance in a room with one window that doesn't open), our ability to decorate everything the way we want and the option to bring our bikes to work.

Naturally, I'm interested in riding to work. The T and the bus are incredibly crowded every morning and it's expensive to buy a pass each month. But, I have some reservations about riding to work.

First, I'm scared of cars. I'm not a very aggressive driver, so I'm definitely not going to be an aggressive road biker. I have ridden on the road a few times, and I fared rather well but I had Michael with me. The morning commute, albeit 2 miles at most, will be through the most congested roads in the city at the busiest time of the day and I'll be navigating them by myself. I'll definitely need to invest in many pairs of big girl panties before attempting such a thing.

Second, how do I deal with the clothing situation? I bring a purse to work every day. Where do you put a purse on a bike? Also, I have clipless pedals. Am I going to have to bring shoes with me every day in my purse to change into after riding? I've seen girls riding to work with a messenger bag (gross) which I assume has everything they need, but those girls are riding with flat pedals (and no helmets). I guess I could have the flat pedals put back on, but then I'll have to change them out every time I want to go mountain biking. That could be really annoying.

Third, umm..sweating? What if I'm drenched in sweat every day once I get to work? My hair will be all gross from my helmet and I'll smell. Awesome.

So is it really that great to ride to work every morning? There was a guy that I worked with once that rode every day, even in the snow and rain. But he was on a road bike with flat pedals and he was a software engineer so nobody thought twice if he was sweaty or had helmet hair. I feel like the only way that a girl can ride to work is if she isn't in a position where she has to be around people during the day and/or if she's a hipster with a fixie who rides in flip flops and doesn't care if her new dress from Urban Outfitters flaps away in the wind.

It's too complicated. I guess I'll just be satisfied with the private bathrooms and leave my bike at home.



Missed the early post because I slept last night.  Weird huh?  But I mean I slept from about 5:30 until, well... 15 minutes ago.  This is all due to the fact that I didn't sleep the previous night... but anyhow.

So the pterodactyl is in the shop... little cosmetic surgery for the big guy.  So what does that mean to all of you?  It means that riding opportunities are limited until I get the big bird/dinosaur  back.  The civic, with it's trailer hitch-less rear end, isn't going to be transporting bikes.

So here are the options for the week.  Street riding - which would include:
1. Charles River Ride (there is a small amount of singletrack as I head out of Boston - so the middle of that loop)
2. Umass Boston/Neponset River Ride, follows the awesome Trolley that hits out to the Central Ave T stop (there is a small stretch of dirt/sandy road through the more "marshy" area)

3. Cutler Commute
4. Fells Commute
5. and/or I could tool around the streets (literally) of Boston

Today (after dropping Annie off at work and eating something) I will be..... decision time..... hitting the Cutler Commute.

Likely it will be a trade between Cutler and Fells this week... I save routes 1 and 2 for horrible winter weather mostly.  And 5... well that rarely happens, usually only when I'm feeling the photography itch and need to get out and - take pictures!

check it out, the 4300!!

So Cutler it is.  Going to be a week of solid miles (albeit road miles).

...need to live closer to trails...

Monday, August 29, 2011

100th POST!!

Let's start with the good news. This post marks our 100th blog entry! We are both so excited that we have stuck with this blog (considering our duel powers of superb procrastination and laziness), and we have every intention to make it to the next milestone: 500!

Now for the bad news: The 100th post landed on my day which means two things. One, it's posting late (sorry) and two, I have nothing to talk about. No need to worry though. I rarely let something as minor as having nothing to talk about stop me from actually talking.

As most everybody in the US knows, this past weekend the east coast got rocked (not really) by hurricane (tropical storm) Irene. Michael and I celebrated our last day of sunshine over drinks and dinner at Top of the Hub Friday evening then buckled down for the impending wrath of hurricane (not even a thunderstorm, really) Irene.

Ok, so the clapboard siding didn't fly off our condo as expected, we didn't have water damage in our basement nor did our garden flood -- but Irene did make it gloomy and wet enough for a "no riding weekend", which circles us back to the beginning of my post (100!) where I remind you that I have nothing to talk about.

But not all is lost. You came here for something so I'm thinking a couple pics of this weekend might satisfy your appetite.

First, we have a pic from lunch this past Friday. My boss and the Director of IT decided to jump on this donkey and pose for us after eating at Ruth Chris Steakhouse. I like to think of it as the pic they would run with their engagement announcement in a parallel universe.

Next we have a breathtaking view of Boston from the top of the Prudential building. This is of course before hurricane (honestly, it barely got windy at all) Irene visited.

Next, after a disappointing meal (Top of the Hub serves cold butter with its cold bread, tsk, tsk), I had the hankering (that's what we call a "craving" in WV speak) for some homemade bread and spreadable butter.

Finally, we went to the movies this weekend and saw Attack the Block. I know most people haven't even heard of it, but it's from the same peeps that brought you Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. I think it was the best out of all of them. You should see it.

So that's the 100th post. Although it seems like this post has nothing to do with the theme of our blog, that is not the case. The kids in the movie ride bikes. Slam dunk!


Friday, August 26, 2011

board up the windows!!

Media Fridays
We'll posts videos or photos that will hopefully inspire trail shredding weekends.

For those of us on the East Coast...

And if the weather keeps you indoors, here is a short film to entertain...

2Ride2 (Short film) - Full version on pinkbike.com

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Is that cellulite?

My whole life I've been short and skinny. I never really became aware of how tiny I was until my little sister became taller and bigger than I was, which happened when I was 12 or 13. One day I remember her coming into my room and trying on a pair of my jeans...and they were too small for her. Of course that experience delighted her, being two years my junior, however I was horrified.

Thus begun the 20 year struggle to get bigger. Obviously, other than using kick-ass 4 inch heels that I discovered in college, I wasn't going to be able to make myself taller. Therefore, gaining weight became my focus. The problem I kept facing was that I didn't really care for eating. Unlike most people, I don't stress eat. When I'm upset, anxious or otherwise stressed, I lose my appetite. Couple that with generalized anxiety disorder and skinniness was unavoidable.

Then something happened. I think there are probably a multitude of factors that lead to me gaining weight (not on purpose), however I have put a lot of thought into it (almost 6 minutes of thought, to be exact) and I think I've identified the main contributors: Michael and chip dip.

Since getting married, I have noticed that I have slowly gained weight, and I mean S-L-O-W-L-Y. When I got married I weighed 90lbs, which was four pounds more than I weighed all through high school. So it took me 10 years to gain four pounds, basically. Then over the past three years of martial bliss, I have noticed a average climb of about 3lbs a year. So for those that aren't too fond of math word problems, that makes me 31 years old and 99lbs. From time to time I get to 102 then I'm all the sudden 97 -- but 99 seems to be my new average, which I credit to Michael and his calming energy. I'm happy, I'm comfortable, I'm settled; so stress is no longer keeping my appetite at bay.

Speaking of appetite, God, do I love chips and dip. I'm not a sweet tooth person, and never really was, but it turns out I can go to town on a bag of Cape Cod chips and Heluva Good French Onion dip. We always (unless one of us just polished it off) have these two items present in our house. The "chip dip" element is the one I credit for the current surge of weight gain (4lbs) over the last two months.

So great, I'm gaining weight. However, it isn't the type of weight I want. Before I would have been thrilled, but because I'm riding and training for the Rugged Maniac in September and Tough Mudder next May, I need to gain muscle. Therefore, my wonderful husband put together a workout plan for me a little over a month ago.

The workout plan is great! It's a full body three day cycle, which I can do at home after work. I have stuck to the workouts since he gave them to me, but over the past week I have decided to switch up the schedule. Originally I was doing one day on and one day off, but now I've decided to do three days on and two days off. In addition, every day at work I run the stairs of my building. I'm on the second floor and I sprint all 24 flights of stairs to the 15th floor. We, like most buildings, don't have a 13th floor if you were wondering why the math doesn't click.

Which is a whole other discussion, but can I say, just because you don't label the 13th floor the "13th floor" doesn't mean you don't have a 13th floor.


Since starting the workout I have noticed a total improvement in my riding. My legs have more control and stamina, my arms are stronger and can pick up the bike much easier than before and my abs have gotten so solid that I really do get the whole "engage your core" mumbo jumbo.

This has all led to a more confident Annie when it comes to riding. Plus, I've noticed that the cellulite, that I never had before, is slowing going back to whatever special corner of hell it originates from.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

ugh... what does that mean???

Yesterday... had a "pre-year" workday.  Saw a couple graduates, met a new freshman, discussed curriculum (yes, even school counselors have to teach some classes), and am kinda looking forward to the start of the school year as I am generally interested in what my kiddies have been up to this summer.

More importantly, I did some trail exploration after work.  I was checking out the NEMBA "places to ride" section and found some trails close by work... so check them out I did!!  I wasn't expecting much as the mileage was low on the trails and it seemed like it would be an easy jaunt per trail description.  I hit the trail and thought... maybe it will be a fast ride.

The ride opened on a wide, smooth, gravel covered trail.  Soon I started coming across nice sized rocks littering the trail here and there... a climb or two, and finally some wandering singletrack to explore.  Overall a decent after work ride.

So... here's the question.  What does it mean when a deer "snorts" at you??
oh, he's in there
I'm cruising down the trail and I hear a snort.. the hell??  I turn and see a deer off in the woods (snort).  I stop up the trail, nothing.  I walk back - I'll get a picture of this bad boy!!  He looks at me cuiriously, stretching his neck to check me out.  Pull out the IPhone and snap a shot.  He just stares.  So I whistle... maybe that will get something??  Nope.  He snorts again, staring me down... well, he doesn't have antlers so I guess it wouldn't hurt THAT much if he charged.  I mean, I could probably get in a lucky punch to the eye before he gets to stomping me.  sooooo maybe I should leave?

For some unknown reason I sniffle... this spooks the HELL out of the deer, he turns and skedaddles like no one's business.  Seriously, deer can JUMP!!!

Did I mention climbing??
This came out shaky... prolly cause I was trying to keep my lungs on the INSIDE of my body...
pictures never do "steep" justice
check out the trail material...

shredded shingle!!

After a little hike-a-bike I was back on grinding to the top...
It was pretty.

Oh, and there was jumping - I was cruising down (prior to the killer climb) and this guy presented as the perfect launchpad!!

So, I guess it was a good ride
it's not riding without unexplained injuries!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Revisiting Cutler

And we went back out.

This time I was prepared with my new skillz. I was sizing up turns, getting up out of my saddle, speeding up and changing gears like a champ. Then I almost hit a tree, which made me want to puke.

Alright, so I need to take it slow. I was so excited to actually have some feedback that I totally got overly zealous and almost domed myself. Allow me to explain. I was riding really well. I loved going through the turns up out of my seat and tilting my bike so much that I forgot to really pay attention to my speed. I was leading so I didn't have Michael as a gauge, and actually I could hear him right behind me so I figured I was finally giving him a riding partner that he could proud of, but that wasn't the case. The case, as it turns out, is I'm not ready to go so fast.

At my optimal speed I was flying through the trail and started to go up this slight incline. The incline curved to the left, and unfortunately for me there was a tree right in the crest of the turn. I was going way too fast to turn and stay on the trail, so instead I ran a little off the trail into the outside of the beginning of the curve, which stopped me about half foot shy of slamming the tree. Luckily for me, there was a family of hikers coming towards us so we had to get off the trail anyway. I nodded as they passed. Sure, no problem. I totally don't mind getting off the trail for you. I'm nice like that.

As the hikers moved forward, I informed Michael that I needed a second. It's funny how almost getting hurt can mess with your head the same or more than if you actually got hurt. It took about 3 minutes for the nausea to subside, and we were off. Michael took the lead for the rest of the day, since I obviously lacked the proper speed management techniques required, and we rode on.

(and thanks to Michael for proofreading this post, since I might have been a little buzzed when writing it)


Monday, August 22, 2011

It costs monies to ride

I've been looking into trainers for the winter - consulted with my Dild's grill teammate, and I'm feeling pretty confident with the decision to go with the Fluid2 from CycleOps.

Then comes the logistics as to where I'll be setting it up, which bike will be on it (getting a slick rear tire for said bike) and then setting up some sort of training regime.  I've bowed out from coaching this season so I can concentrate on being an athlete myself - let's see how that turns out.

But wait!!  Why am I preparing for the winter when there is still PLENTY of riding to be had???  Good question!!  So before I get into trainer mode I need to get into "night rider" mode... which is another mode I haven't accessed previously.  So on top of a hefty trainer purchase, I need to get a lighting system that will allow me to do some solid riding as the sun starts hiding from us.

I've looked a little and I'm thinking right now that a Light and Motion Stella 300 would be a good light to get me out there.  

Here's the deal.  I don't want a crap light that is going to make me go 3 mph out there.  But with the trainer purchase on the horizon (plus a new wheel set for the HiFi next season) I don't want to get killed with the bill either.... so I'm hoping something like the Stella 300 will be an adequate light to allow me to still get some solid riding out there in the darkness.  

So, let the honesty flow.  I know some of you must have some experience; so give me the good, the bad, and the high priced.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Annie's Adventures at Cutler

Media Fridays
We'll posts videos or photos that will hopefully inspire trail shredding weekends.

Annie tearing it up at Cutler.  She's getting stronger,  faster, and more confident with every ride!
(sorry for the late post - more music being blocked by YouTube)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

This is going to hurt my neck

My focus glued as a tree rushes closer and closer; my bike sliding out from under me.  I push my bike out and away (to avoid the tree) railing my right shin across the top tube as I clear my bike.  At the last second my hands are free to help brace as I decide the only thing left to do is use my helmet for it's intended purpose.  I break my fixated stare from the tree and think...wow, this impact could really do some damage to my neck.

Suddenly I stop.  I managed to dig enough to stop short of the tree.  I open my eyes.  Is that a bike part??  My first thought was I wasn't the first to take a dive in this spot.  But no, it was a pine cone.  I shake off the fall and pop up... I'm ok (I tell myself).  My shin starts throbbing and as I look down (I'm in luck, no open wound) I can see it start to balloon up.  Ugh, is that going to explode in a bloody mess all over the trail??

I shift my focus to my bike.  I managed to avoid the tree, but how did the trail treat it?  My front wheel is completely turned around, I pick up my bike and straighten things out.  As I spin the front wheel I see a slight wobble... great!  But then I notice a nice explosion of sealant all over the sidewall.  No tear, but the impact must have burped the tire, but it sealed back up.  I check things out and it seems the wobble is in the tire only as it was unseated on impact... I can deal with that.

Decision time... forge forward (hoping this turns out to be a loop and sends me back to my pterodactyl) or turn around.  I don't think my shin is going to explode so I push forward... ultimately coming to a road and having to back track.  Not wanting to cut my ride short, I ended up taking another trail back to the pterodactyl which included some step downhill - with a sore shin and a shaken ego - that I had to take gingerly.

This was my ride at Wells State Park.  It was a decent little place.  Little being key.  Not much mileage available, but classic New England trails with some rocky climbing and some sweet descents.  I thought I'd stop there on my way back from Connecticut to check things out.  Not a place I'd drive to just to ride, and not sure if it could be a pit stop on back and forths from my parent's house (parking is $2 - and I'm not sure it's really worth multiple trips).

A taste of the trails:

BUT - what was great about this ride was the crash.  That might sound crazy, but let me tell you why I see the crash as a good thing.  I haven't had an injury on the bike in a while now (knock on wood... wait, I guess it's too late...) and that is a result of two things.  First, I'd like to think that my confidence and bike handling skills are improving so I am able to avoid silly mistakes and am better able to manage technical terrain.  The second reason may be because I haven't been pushing my limits enough??

Before the crash I was flying down a trail.  Enjoying the heck out of the ride, and not content with letting gravity pull me, I cranked up the gears and pushed the HiFi faster.  THIS IS RIDING!  It was such a blast.  Catching some air off a rock I saw a left turn coming in the trail.  Take it wide and hit the roots? Or take it tight and ride over a nice smooth rock?  I honed in on the rock and took it at speed - did I forget to mention it poured the previous day??  The back wheel slide out and the rest is history.  Had I not been pushing the limits I am certain I wouldn't have lost control.  But without pushing the limits you don't know your full potential... you don't know what the actual limit is.

Am I bummed I crashed, nah.  Does my shin hurt, yeah.  But I live to ride another day.

Story by Pictures:

Arrow shows intended path

Rear wheel slippage

Circle indicated final resting place of head.
Notice the leaves pushed up from "forearm brake"

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Lessons from the Trail

In my last post I briefly mentioned that Michael gave me some feedback on my technique once we watched the footage, and I thought I would share that feedback. I'm sure the real bikers out there won't be so surprised, but the newbies like myself may benefit from knowing what I now know.

Also, look out for Media Friday this week when Michael will post the video from our ride. Not everything we did is in the video, but I just watched it and everything I need to work on is definitely represented.

(in Michael speak)
  1. Get up out of that saddle, turkey.

    The very first thing Michael noticed was that I stay in a seated position for most of the ride. Being in the saddle gives me the sense of being more stable, but apparently that is just an illusion. When going around curves or downhill being in the saddle can cause the rider to be much more rigid thus making the impact of every root and rock feel ten times as rough. People say it all the time about every athletic endeavor: Loosin' up. The more loose you are the better you go with the flow of every turn, bump and decline. I really can't wait to use this piece of advice on our next ride because my ass needs a break.

  2. Don't brake for every turn, b.

    You'll notice in the video that I automatically apply the brakes every time I go into a curve in the trail. Every time. It's funny because when I was riding that day I felt like EVERY turn was super sharp and therefore required me to slow down. Then we watched the footage, and I immediately thought, "That curve doesn't really even look like a curve." The truth is, it was a curve but not a dead man's curve like I sized it up to be mid-ride. To help ease me into just riding the turn at the speed I'm already at I need to, you guessed it, get up out of the saddle. Being too rigid is giving me the impression that the turn is sharp because when you are in the saddle, thus moving your whole body instead of just the bike, it feels sharp. So the next thing I need to work on is getting up out of the saddle then keeping my body straight while tilting the bike to handle the turn.

  3. Jump it, mang!

    One of my attempts at jumping on the trail is documented in the final footage, but if you really examine it you'll find that I didn't really jump much of anything. This is definitely something I need to work on because I really like pulling my bike up over stuff mostly because I don't want to feel the impact of whatever the obstacle is on my butt. So jumping things is totally cool with me. I do need to utilize this technique more AND try to jump with my front and back tire as well. I mean, my feet are all locked up into my pedals and until now that just resulted in me falling a lot. So if I can use the fact that I'm clipped in to lift my back tire, well, that would be delightful.
So there you go. And yes, Michael does routinely refer to me as "turkey", "b" and "mang" ---and I love it, yo!


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Why would I pay attention??

By now I should know not to pay attention to weather forecasts and the random percentages they throw out to signify the chance for rain.  I succumbed to the forecast and did not ride on Sunday... when I totally could have!!!  So that was a missed opportunity.

Monday there was no debate, it was WET!!

Today I'm heading to Connecticut to drop the dogs off at my parents as we are getting new windows put in the front of our condo tomorrow... depending on the weather as I'm leaving Boston I may bring a bike along to hit a trail on the way back... I'm not holding my breath on that one though.

As you may have noticed from Annie's post, we hit up Cutler on Saturday.  Thursday I also hit up Cutler as I waited for the HiFi (which you can see here).  Riding the 4300 it was evident that there is a BIG difference between riding a 26er and a 29er.  After riding the HiFi for so long, I guess I pretty much forgot how awesome big wheels are.  On small wheels things slow you down that you don't even have to pay attention to on big boy wheels.  Speed itself seems to be your friend on 29 inch wheels, always ready to give you a lift... whereas on little wheels it seems like you are chasing to catch up to that bastard speed, and the minute you coast he flips you off and leaves you behind.

BIG V. small

BUT, it was refreshing to ride the 4300 alone, to remind me just what the trail is like for Annie.  It helped recenter me, bring me back to where I started on the trails and feel how trail features are a totally different challenge to a beginner on 26 inch wheels compared to someone riding 29 inch wheels.  Once I got used to actually having to focus a little more on the navigation piece, I quite enjoyed railing Cutler on the small wheels!!

Signed up for my final race of the season.  At this point I don't know exactly what to expect, but I'm positive.  I've had fun racing this season.  Results haven't been jaw dropping, but it's a start...  This season is my baseline - where I fall with little/no focused training.  Hopefully I can pull things together, get focused during the off season, and come back with a solid season next year.

Either way I have to say racing is a good time.  The people are great!  It's nice to see familiar faces from race to race, and it's been great getting to meet some other riders out there.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Annie gets her groove back.

I'm going to be honest: I was starting to contemplate giving up on being a mountain biker.

I started to flirt with this idea a few weeks back due to a real dislike of how I felt after each ride. Constant frustration and lack of improvement really began eating away at my excitement to the point where Michael would say "Let's ride this weekend." and my first thought would be, "Again?".

Where this desire to give up came from, I'm not sure. In the beginning it was so much fun to go out with Michael, even though it was freezing at the time. Somewhere around May or June I started to plateau and every ride I felt like I was disappointing Michael with my slow speed, fear of rocky hills and crappy endurance. Biking wasn't really fun anymore, and I couldn't figure out how to turn it all around --- thus, I started to consider just stopping.

Then this past weekend Michael suggested we go to Cutler and spend the day on the actual trails and not just the lake loop that I like to do. I was uncharacteristically a little excited about going, and I'm going to tell you why. As girly as it is, Michael bought me riding gloves that are super cute, and I was looking forward to using them.

Yup. New accessories turned out to be the key to getting me out there. I'll give you a second to finish your eye roll before I continue.



So I should also mention that I was feeling pretty comfortable with the ride for the day because I knew Michael had just been on the same trails two days before and knew exactly what parts I could handle and what I'd need to jump off and walk. I've mentioned before that not being familiar with the trails is a real huge frustration for me because I never feel I can work on my gear shifting, maneuvering or endurance because I have to stop every 10-20 feet.

Well this trip was so different. Michael told me beforehand that there would be some familiar riding at first since the trails were off of the loop I know so well. I even knew where on the loop we'd be exiting -- so I felt pretty comfortable. Michael proceeded to tell me that the part he was sure I would like was only accessible through some janky sections he was sure I wouldn't like. Since I knew the funky, rooty, rocky section was temporary, I didn't have a hissy fit about having to get off my bike a bunch. It was official, Michael had figured me out.

Finally we made it back to the trail Michael had scouted out for me. It was awesome. The trail was smooth and fun with lots of turns and a few inclines. I was able to go at a fast and consistent speed while also practicing shifting since I was able to see a hill well before I got to it. I had a blast, and because Michael took some video of us on the trail he was able to give me some feedback on my technique once we reviewed the tape.

So it seems I'm over my "whiny quitting phase" and moving into my "let's perfect my skillz" (that's right...skillz...with a "z") phase. I'm already pumped for another ride.

Thanks Michael!!


Friday, August 12, 2011

Not so social ride

Media Fridays
We'll posts videos or photos that will hopefully inspire trail shredding weekends.

The HiFi was in the shop so I took the 4300 out while I waited... here is some footage I got over at Cutler instead of hitting up the  group ride at Landlocked.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bad Timing and Suri

Because of my job being in the middle of downtown Boston and having the unfortunate, yet completely normal, hours of 9-5pm, I hardly get to bike during the week. As stated in previous posts, it takes a solid 20 minutes to get to the closest place to mountain bike from where we live AND that's if there's no traffic. Unfortunately before 9am M-F the roads are parking lots, so even if I could get out to a place to ride early in the morning, the chance of me getting back into Boston before I need to be at work is completely impossible. Then after work we end up with the opposite problem; takes a little over an hour to get to a place to ride then we don't make it home til 9pm (not how I want to spend my evening).

So I can only really ride on weekends. From those weekends, we need to subtract the times that we are out of town. So far this summer I have spent a weekend in Austin, three weekends in Connecticut and a weekend in Florida. Also we need to slice away the rainy weekends, which is an additional two. Round that out with an out of town wedding weekend, and we are left with only EIGHT weekends during the months of June, July, August and September to ride. The good weather isn't good for long enough in New England.

There seems to be only a couple solutions to this problem.
One: Don't travel. (nope)
Two: Get a road bike. (maybe)
Three: Move somewhere with better weather. (also a contender).

Michael isn't too jazzed about me maybe wanting a road bike. And to be honest, we wouldn't have anywhere to put a road bike if I did get one so it really isn't an option. So moving to a place that has a larger number of nicer weekends (note: it's above 60 degrees nine months out of the year in Charlotte) seems to be the only solution. Of course I guess I could just suck it up and ride in colder weather or just deal with getting home super late during the work week to get a few extra rides in. I don't know.

But what I do know is that while I'm sitting around calculating reasons why I don't ride as often as I like, I still have time to work out -- which I have been doing on a consistent basis since Michael created my workout plan.

The other thing I've been doing on a consistent basis is checking in on my new favorite blog: Suri's Burn Book. Someone decided that pretending to be Suri Cruise blogging about how stupid other celebrity babies look, dress, and act would be hilarious. Someone was right.

This one's my favorite:

Yesterday, Denise Richards threw a baby shower for her newly adopted daughter, Eloise. Which basically means she threw a shower for herself. She invited her friends to a hotel party with explicit instructions to bring a gift. For her third kid.

It’s so tacky I can barely breathe.

Say what you want about my mother, but that bitch has manners. She didn’t even have a shower. You know why? Because baby showers are for poor people.



Wednesday, August 10, 2011

16th Annual Hodges Village Dam

After the race... and a beer
(which allowed fro some of the mud to dry up as I sat under the hatch of the pterodactyl)

Rain on a race day... rain the night before, the morning of, during, and I'm sure after.  As I arrived and headed to register the rain let up... maybe we'll get out there relatively dry??  Annie didn't attend the race due to the forecast, and I could not blame her at all.  I called my father before heading out to tell him not to come either - no use having them be miserable in the rain.

As I was getting my gear together to head out for my warm up it begins pouring.  I pause and watch the minutes tick by... will it end??  Eventually I just jumped on my bike and started out on the course.  Puddles (and I use the term lightly) are huge, spanning the sandy road to start the race.  Following my pre ride of the course on Saturday I had commented that a bit a of rain would be nice to help firm up the long sandy road which got extremely soft before heading back into the woods... but by no means did I mean for this much rain to hit.  I'm not actually sure if the rain helped or hindered on that road... as now we weren't contending with soft sand, but rather standing water.

Ok, so the race.  At the start I ponder if wearing my glasses will do anything as vision was slightly skewed from droplets on the lens.  My field started off quick and I was content in riding the back off the start knowing there were miles to go and plenty of time to pass.  As soon as we complete the first climb into the rocky doubletrack mud rendered me blind.  Not because my glasses were covered, but because mud somehow got up under my glasses (thus rendering them useless) and into my eye.  With my right eye burning and blurry I could feel the pack pulling away - catching glimpses of them as I turned corners.  The pain was too much and with wet muddy conditions I couldn't keep taking risks, I stopped.  My camelbak isn't much help as the hose won't dispense water into my eye, so I ripped off my glove and fill my cupped hand with water and attempt to rinse out my eye.  I had some success and get back to racing, for now.  I'm still not far off as I come up to a short steep climb I see riders from my class.  I push forward, but with constant rain washing mud and sweat into my eye my vision continues to deteriorate... I start thinking of calling it.  DNF... This season I didn't want a DNF or a DFL in a race, and at this point it looked like I'm destined for one of the two.  

As I exited the forest for the stretch of sandy road the rain starts to let up a little... my eye gets some relief from the barrage of pain and I'm able to get through the second half of the course without too much hesitation due to the eye.  Before hitting the start of lap 2 the rain is back so I make a deal with myself... get to the water station, flush out the eye, and then decide if I can continue or if I have to call it.  

After flushing my eye I figure I can continue so I push forward.  As I hit the short climb into the forest I see a rider ahead of me... is that someone from my class??  Can I climb back into this??  As I come upon the rider I discover it is my friend Pat from the age group below me - he's be having issues with his contacts, so I pull him along for a while before losing him in some muddy descents and corners.  I do my best to push on all roads and strive to have a better 2nd lap.  

Throughout the second lap I am forced to make two stops to again flush my eye.  The trail was looking less like a trail and more like a river as the rains continued and puddles merged from their individual entities into a constant stream at some points.  Eventually I come upon a rider in my class pushing his bike, I pause to see if I can help, but he has a torn sidewall so I push forward.

I'm bummed that my eye held me back as I felt conditions, although WET and muddy, weren't really a factor holding me back from being able to race my race.  I am happy that the wet conditions didn't cause me to overly back off or fear the wet roots as I did at Weeping Willow.  I'm not sure where I would have ended up had I not had eye issues, but it would have been a bit more fun!!  So even though results don't indicate a success, I think this race was a great experience for me as I start looking forward to next season.

Hifi not looking so bad, but sounded TERRIBLE with sandy guck rendering my brakes useless on the second lap.
Check out the camelbak, with it's mud covered bottom and whatnot

Earlier I mentioned waiting for a package... well it arrived on Saturday before I left for the pre ride.  Extra tube and tire levers nice and secure under the saddle thanks to my sweet orange Awesome Strap... Now to get a co2 cartridge to pack in there so I can take the pump off the HiFi.  I like the idea of being able to store that stuff for quick easy access (not to mention less to stuff in jersey pockets/camelbak)
Grossness all up in the tire levers

Monday, August 8, 2011

Did Aquaman just pass me??

It was a wet nasty one at the 16th Annual Hodges Village Dam race on Sunday... but I'll tell you all about that when I finally get all the gritty sand/mud out of every crevasse (I'm talking bike and body).  The HiFi lived to make it through, though it sounded like it wanted to die - my brakes weren't so lucky....

So what will you hear about today??  How about the Thursday Night Social Ride over at Burlington Landlocked Forest!!!

Bottom line, it was sweet!

My first group ride and it looked to be well attended.  There were certainly the "elites" out there ready to get that race pace going.  I wasn't sure where I would fall in with the rest of the riders, and honestly - with a race coming - I wanted a mellower ride to stretch out the legs and get on some of those trails I had seen in Thom P's video.  I signed in and waited to get started.  We would be breaking into 4 groups... the FAST, the ladies, and the intermediates (slow and fast).  The intermediates (where I settled in) was a large group, so we headed out together and used the first bit of new singletrack to weed out the fast and slow and separated from there.  The pace was good and I could have gone with either group I think, but I chose to lay back and take the easier group.

It was strange riding in a group at first because I had to pace myself off of the rider in front of me - which both pulled and slowed me at times.  Off the bat I did have to pass a rider who was struggling on a hill and I wondered what the protocol was for group rides and passing... it wasn't a race so I did wait quite a while before feeling like I HAD to get in front of him, and took him in a wide open location... but still, I wasn't sure if that was kosher.  So from there whenever we stopped I tried to position myself in the top half/third to ensure I'd be able to keep pace but not be tripping over someone.

Not to say that I didn't trip others up myself, I'm sure I did as I did hit a snag here or there.  But it was a great ride overall.  Got my sweat on and hit some sweet trails I had never been on before.  It was strange to come across the other groups from time to time... just lines of riders passing each other going in every direction.  Overall I think the ride leaders did a great job in routes and spreading us out so there weren't traffic jams between the groups.

I am looking forward to this Thursday - hopefully I'll be able to make it back out again.  Group rides are definitely a necessity going forward though.  A great opportunity to keep the pace up and not worry about routes - just follow and ride.  And with the various groupings available, a great workout/training for racing.  I'll have to jump in on them early next season.

Friday, August 5, 2011

I think it's the 80s?

Media Fridays
We'll posts videos or photos that will hopefully inspire trail shredding weekends.

Soothing music and some sweet riding.  Oh, and dogs.

Best of biking - Whitehorse Yukon on pinkbike.com

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Thursday Night

So I'm doing it.

I'm finally jumping in on the group ride put on by GBNEMBA over at Burlington Landlocked Forest.  I've been wanting to get in on a regular group ride since... well the beginning of this season.  Since I got back into mountain biking I've been riding on my own - well, with the occasional ride in strange places with Mongo, and now my rides with Annie - but for the most part I've been tackling trails solo.

Riding solo can only get you so far... because you will inevitably keep getting in your own way.  The fears creep in and keep you from trying that technical section.  The legs asking to go home - and when alone there is no escaping their cries - leaving you incapable of mustering enough willpower to stay out for a few extra miles.  Missing the unknown trails for many rides until you accidentally stumble upon them...

Riding with others (hopefully stronger riders) lets you see that the scary rock in the trail isn't so scary and can truly be conquered.  It helps you pick up your pace (and keep it up) instead of sitting back and coasting when you feel a little tired.  It introduces you to new features, better routes, or better lines for that matter.  So, a few days before my next race, I'll be finally jumping in on a group ride tonight.

Thom P. has been frequenting the ride lately and his little videos got me itching to get back over to LLF.  I haven't ridden there in a bit, but I've always enjoyed it.  And from his video, there are sections I must have missed in previous visits.  So I'm excited to explore.  I won't be riding with Thom P. and the speed demons, but it will be fun nonetheless.

Side note.  I've ordered myself a product that has been pimped by Dicky, and I'm hoping it will be here in time for the race.  No biggie if it's not, it isn't vital to bike performance... but it would be nice to get a "racier" race set up going on... or at least one step closer to that.  The actual reason isn't so much race inspired as it is practicality laziness on my part.  It would be nice to be able to bundle a 26er tube on the 4300 so I don't have to worry about checking tubes and digging out the right one when I jump from the HiFi to the 4300 to ride with Annie... but on the race tip - I did get a sweet orange strap for the HiFi.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Beginner's Lesson

I am by nature (or in defiance of nature, rather) an incredibly unobservant human being.

Seriously, if we didn't live in a civilized society and were all left to fend for ourselves -- my kind would die off before lunchtime. Everyone would be finding shelter and gathering food while I stood in the middle of a deserted Dunkin' Donuts thinking, "Huh, everyone must be in the back."

Michael has been in awe of my total lack of awareness since the beginning of our relationship. He first noticed something was "off" when he brought home flowers for the first time, left them in the middle of the room and watched me walk passed them a dozen times before exclaiming, "Awe! You brought me flowers!"

This was the beginning, and the skills have not sharpened over time.

So biking has been a bit of challenge, considering. As I find myself working very diligently in paying attention to the trail and Michael -- I tend to become even more oblivious to my bike and my technique. I'll barely be able to focus long enough to get through a difficult part of the trail and then at the end, I"ll notice that my glasses have a bug on them, my tire pressure has dropped (or, to be honest, started out) very low and I'm still in the same gear that I started in. I never paid any attention to my positioning on my bike or the bike itself. That's a problem.

So the next time I go out I focus my efforts towards my equipment and technique. I focus on the way I'm pedaling. I zone in on my breathing. I listen for weird noises or feel for strange flaws in the mechanics of my bike. But what do I realize at the end? Nothing, because I didn't make it to the end of the trail. I stopped somewhere quickly after I started because I slammed into a rock or came up too fast on Michael. The trail, and the people on it, just disappear. Again, this is a problem.

A middle ground of observation is what I need to work towards.

The first step towards that goal is to follow a tip that comes from my friend Sean, (Mongo), which is to not look where you don't want to go. A somewhat simplistic teaching, but one that carries significant weight when it comes to riding a bike. If I stare at the front of my tire and worry about smacking that huge root to the right then I veer to the right. Every time. There's actually two things wrong with what I'm doing. I'm focusing on where I don't want to go (Mongo would be disappointed) AND I'm concentrating on the area right in front of my tire.

I mean, when I walk I don't look right in front of my feet -- I look straight ahead. Yet, when I get on a bike, I turn all ass backward and forget the basic rules of movement. I stare at the area right in front of my tire and gravitate towards the things I want to avoid. It reminds me of when I used to rock climb and would shake my head at newbies trying to pull instead of push their way up the mountain. I mean, do you pull yourself up a ladder by your arms or do push yourself up by your legs? This rookie mistake would surprise me every time, but it's not their fault. New situations cause most people to question their instincts.

So the beginner's lesson that I'm focusing on this week is to not try and overcompensate for my lack of observation skills by becoming overly focused on the trail, or my bike, or on Michael. I need to treat the bike like an extension of me. I ride the bike; the bike does not ride me. I tell the bike where to go, and I can only know where to go by looking straight ahead.


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

New roads, races, AND trails!!

Thursday I looked over Fells commute route, tweaked it a bit, waited for the plumbers to finish and off I went.  Ended up with a ride that was only a little over a mile less than the Cutler commute, but still...  you don't get a view of Boston on the way to Cutler.
Climb up this bad boy (located in the Mystic River Reservation in Medford)...

And catch a glimpse of the Beaner
You don't really want to know what I found under the look out....

Had a decent little ride around the Fells.  I was able to quickly join the Bike Loop from my entry point, toured that around and came across a number of riders, which was really nice.  I often ride without seeing another mountain biker, so it was cool to see a number of riders.  I probably jumped off the loop sooner than needed to in order to get back to the task of rodeoing back home... but that is what transpires on a scouting trip.

Saturday I hit up Wompatuck to ride attempt to ride the race course (as they have posted up a map outlining the course).  Overall it was pretty easy to find, a couple head scratches here or there and I was back on track... but I did get tripped up twice.  One was due to a lot of intersecting trails amongst some sweet dips, turns, and jumps... rode around that hill for a bit trying to determine the actual course.  The other spot was coming to the end.  I got suckered into following the Time Trials markings and got all turned around... and of course this occurs in probably the most technical area.  Which, in reality was just a great opportunity for some practice.  I was totally psyched that I was clearing all the rock gardens and rooty/muddy mess that was thrown in front of me.  When I determined I was off track I backtracked through the technical minefield and attempted to get to the finish line.... well it never happened.  I ended up doubling back somewhere by mistake and with my time on the trail nearing 3 hours I decided it was time to get back to the car (after all there were beers, wings, and the company of friends by an open fire to be enjoyed later that night).

Of course there is a race BEFORE the Landmine Classic, but there doesn't seem to be much going on in terms of a pre ride on that front.  I did see today a GPS from last years race and it seems I have ridden much of the course on my ride down there earlier in the summer.  So I feel fairly confident in heading down the day before to just tour the course.  One of the things that I was reminded of while riding in Wompatuck is that I need to utilize my gears.  This seems to be a cycle I fall into where I stop using my gears and just try to push too hard.  I don't know what it's all about (some subconscious feeling that I should be stronger/faster?) but it throws me off my game.  I was very happy to snap myself out of it and get back to spinning - pushing hard and riding fast, but making sure I was spinning those gears.

I'm in a good mindset going into the Annual Hodges Village Dam race so I'm feeling good about that.  I've backed off working my legs this week as I started the Fells Commute with a nice "burn" going on that never went away in my right thigh.  My legs felt pretty good at Wompatuck (could feel them working throughout - which is MUCH better than the void they were floating in for the Boneyard) so I'm hopeful I'll be in good shape for this upcoming race.  I'm ok with "feeling" my legs, as long as there is some output!!

Monday I decided to have some fun and hit up a new trail.  I went up to Chelmsford and rode Russell Mill.  HOLY CRAP that place is sweet ass!!!  The trails were just pristine.  So sweet and fast.  They did a great job of utilizing the natural features, hitting up rollers and wall crossings whenever possible.  Some nice quick twisty singletrack throughout.  And a pump track to boot!!  Not the longest trail system ever, but certainly a fun place.  I wanted to hit it for a second loop (mainly to snap pictures of the awesomeness that was the trails) but clouds were coming in and I had to get to the grocery store before I picked Annie up so I had to bail.  No fear, I will be back... and probably with much more media accessing technologies than just the garmins and iphone (possible mini movie??).

Monday, August 1, 2011


Lately I've been bummed.

It seems when I started riding I was much more fearless than I am now. In the beginning, I would follow Michael through tight turns and bumpy lines without being scared of falling or hurting myself. Now however, I'm a big chicken and I'm trying to pinpoint when the shift in ballsiness happened.

Today we went to Wompatuck and the whole ride I was nervous to get on singletracks. Right before shifting from the road to the trail a wave of panic would come over me. I thought maybe it's from being clipped in or maybe it's because I have fallen a few times and well...it hurts. But the more I think about it the more I know that it's not the fear of falling that's freaking me out; it's the fear of the unknown.

I really don't like riding trails that I'm not familiar with because I get scared to death that I'm going to whip around a corner and smash into a tree or hit a hill with crazy rocks. I don't trust in myself nearly enough to relax and just go with it because I'm frightened of hitting the hills without enough momentum or being in the wrong gear to wrestle with whatever technical challenge pops up.

This really shouldn't be a surprise to those that know me. I'm rather notorious for wanting to control all situations. I'm not one of those people that reads the last page of a book because I need to know how it ends before it starts (which is so stupid by the way, considering that the last page of a book hardly ever makes sense unless you have read the book), but I am the type of person to plan out every minute of a vacation. Surprises don't sit well with me, and mountain biking is becoming one long unpredictable panicky experience every time we go out.

So why wasn't I scared in the beginning considering that I was equally unfamiliar with the trails at that point? Well, at the start of this whole thing I naively trusted that Michael knew every single trail and wouldn't take me on something I couldn't handle. But after a few trips together I realized that he usually didn't know or didn't remember what was coming up either -- and that rocked my trusting world.

Any suggestions on how to overcome this fear would be greatly appreciated. I still want to ride, but I'm starting to have less and less fun out there. Maybe some suggestions of starter trails would help? I know I could probably google, but I always trust people's personal recommendations so much more. Or, since most of you are from all over the place, maybe some tips on how to feel more relaxed on a bike?


(I'm hoping a frowny emoticon will make you feel sorry enough to help me.)