Thursday, January 26, 2017

Laugh and the world laughs with you, snore and you sleep alone. (Anthony Burgess)

Time to try riding in some baby hills.

The perfect place? Lake Placid and south Highlands County. It's on US 27 about 150+ miles northeast of Miami. It's on the southern point of the Lake Wales Ridge, a geologic feature that forms the spine of the Florida peninsula. The Ridge is what remains of a chain of ancient islands that existed when sea levels were much higher millions of years ago.

Hill blocks view sign
A huge weather system was moving through as we arrived. Bands of severe weather moved across the state. Behind them came wind. Big wind. Usually my allergies to certain pollens are a problem this time of year in Lake Placid. I was counting on the rain and wind to keep the pollen count bearable, so I wouldn't have a stuffed up head (with the resulting un-ladylike snoring.)

On our first day in Lake Placid, we went for coffee and breakfast. The wind was 20+mph with 30+mph gusts. Misty rain came and went. We sipped our coffee. Go out on our bikes? Don't think so. We drove to not-too-distant Arcadia and spent the day puttering around dusty antique and vintage clothing stores.

Misplaced hill blocks view sign (no hill!)
The next day the misty rain was gone. It was cold by Florida standards, but the sun was shining. The wind had gotten a little better. We set out.

We pedaled south along back roads to old state road 8. This is the best quiet road heading south. It takes you into an area of ranches, wildlife refuges, and orange groves. And there are road signs reminding motorists that "Hill Blocks View." My personal favorite is the misplaced one that warns "Hill Blocks View" on a pretty much flat stretch of the road. We've laughed about these signs for years. I even blogged about it once.

Along the way we stopped at the Lake Wales Ridge Wildlife and the Archbold Biological Station. Archbold is a research facility. It makes a convenient stop for a snack and to refill water bottles.

We kept going to where old state road 8 ends at highway 731, another quiet two-lane road. We turned right and headed west. When we had reached the half-way point for our day, we turned around and headed back on the same route.

On the first half of the ride the wind was mainly a cross-wind with a tailwind in parts. On the way back, the tail wind was a head wind. In two lengthy segments, we had a long gradual incline with that strong headwind. I would trail farther and farther behind Al, then he would slow and wait for me. On one memorable stretch, I watched my power meter move higher, higher, and way higher while I moved slower and slower. In one half mile segment I was putting out the power range I normally only see during hard interval training. I cheered when we crested a small climb by the Lake Placid Camp and Conference Center and saw in the distance the Citrus Tower in downtown Lake Placid. Four miles to go! Four miles to hot coffee and a cookie. (Three miles.) (Two miles.) (One mile.) Then we were finally at the motel! We rolled the bikes into the lobby. No wind! Just the quiet sound of a TV down a hall. And the wonderful smell of hot coffee.

Lake Placid. Great area for cycling. And a good place to carry some extra treats for new friends you may meet along the way...

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

It's so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life. (Rita Rudner)

We pedalled to the Rickenbacker Causeway, a convenient two miles from our home. Someone once asked me what I do to train for the type of cycling we do. "That's easy," I told them, "I just chase Al down the road."

It's true. At least on Tuesdays. That's when we go to the Rickenbacker and do a metric century's worth of loops up and down the causeway, Virginia Key, and Key Biscayne. Other days we ride together. But on Tuesdays, we have "meet-up" points. He gets to ride as fast as he wants. I chase. I can almost hang on to him during the first part of the ride. Then, bit by bit, he disappears into the distance.

Today I was giving chase when I had to slow briefly as I came up behind two middle-aged guys on their road bikes. "Good morning, gentlemen. Passing on your left. Chasing the bunny in the white jersey up ahead!" As often happens when a woman passes a couple of guys, they quickened their pace. A couple miles down the road they passed me when I slowed, breathing very hard, still trying to pedal-pedal-pedal, but now slumping over my handlebars. "We decided to chase your bunny, too!" they said as they passed me.

We did the last 15 miles at a comfortable speed, enjoying the best part of the ride. Somewhere around 40 miles into a ride or so, we slide into a zone. This is where the "ride" begins for us: muscles moving smoothly, breathing deeply, the road stretching pleasantly into the distance ahead.

Pedal, pedal, pedal.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right. (Oprah Winfrey)

2017 has barely begun, but those resolutions to be active, get in shape, and ride your bike more may already be falling victim to work and family. The Everglades Bicycle Club (EBC) decided to give us all a little love and encouragement.

EBC threw a fun tailgate party for folks that rode over 4,000+ miles in 2016. It was a party to celebrate those who rode a lot in 2016 and to encourage everyone to ride more in 2017. We all had a great time.

Al and I ride a lot because a long bike ride is fun and makes us happy. It expands the senses. It leaves me, at least, with that same sense of brightness and wonder I remember from childhood, a sense of being fully alive. Over the years Al and I have tried rides of various lengths and intensity. We discovered that we were most satisfied when our rides were around 50-75 miles and the intensity determined by our mood and how we felt that particular day. (We are retired. While we love being out on our bicycles, we limit our riding to just 4 mornings a week to give us time for the rest of our life.)

It isn't hard for us to ride a lot. Personally, I am awed by people with jobs, businesses, family, and sometimes school, who find a way to get out each week and ride 80 to 200+ miles. Because that's what it takes to do 4,000+ to 10,000+ miles a year. These are the ones who deserve the accolades.

Here in Miami, we got to party with a whole bunch of them. Awesome.
(Some of the folks that rode over 4000+ miles. Photo by Alex Pruna, re-edited for post by Marsha)

(Some of the guys that rode over 10,000 miles. Photo by Alex Pruna, re-edited for post by Marsha)

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere. (Dr. Seuss)

Starting back on the bike after being off for three months has been a hoot.

The first time out was just Al and me, and it was ugly and slow. But I finished 35 miles. (Thankfully no one I knew saw me.) The second ride was much better. I went with a group of friends who pulled me the whole 35 miles. The third ride was 41 miles, with a group, and a little faster. The fourth ride was with a small group of friends, another 35 mile ride. Each ride was a little better than the one before.

Then yesterday I headed out with just Al. We did 50 miles, keeping 3-5 bike lengths apart so I wasn't drafting him. I was working hard, but I wasn't focused on speed. I was using my power meter to determine my new baselines. You can't see improvement if you don't know where you started from.

About halfway through the 50 miles I had a funny thought. I'd been doing the wah-wah-wah-this-is-sooooo-hard thing. Then suddenly a light bulb switched on: this was no harder than any other day Al and I were by ourselves doing a training ride. The numbers on my little bike computer were just a bit smaller than 3 months ago, but (duh) I was expecting that. It was a typical training ride. I was working my butt off. It was a training ride, not a touring ride or a ramble. First you train, then you get to have long satisfying, pleasant, enjoyable rides.

So I smoothed my shoulders and chased Al down the road. From there to here, and here to there. Just like that I decided to stop bitching and start looking for the funny things.