Training Tuesday January 19

When I’m riding regularly and I take a break from it, two things happen stamina wise. The first is that I have a few days of high energy. I’m using energy on a much lower level than usual and I have loads of energy to spare. The second is that my cardio fitness level immediately starts to decline, and it feels like I get booted back to my pre-training starting point. I didn’t notice much of the high energy boost that normally comes from time off this time. Things were hectic, stressful and I got sick (We were isolating for Covid Exposure, but I never had a temperature, so that’s not likely what I got).

On the whole, there were some benefits to the break that isolation forced, but my body has always seemed to lose fitness faster than most people in a similar age and fitness range and regain it slower. The third ride marked when things caught up to me. The first two were short and I had some residual energy. The third ride was when the residual energy took a nosedive and the reduced fitness reared its ugly head. I was working hard. I was really stiff, and tired the day after. I had an opportunity to ride that next day and I didn’t take it. I only felt a little bit bad about that.

The third ride also showed some excitement. A rafter of, probably 30, turkeys crossing the trail in front of me. I remember the first time I ever saw a 7 turkeys. I was so excited. Then Russ said “That’s nothing. Wait till I take you to Tennessee.” In Tennessee there were groups of 12 or 20 fairly often in the fields beside the roads. My grandson said “Well, if you think there were 30, then there were probably only 15” when I was telling about it. All I have to say about that is, he should have been there. This was over the top, and they were strolling leisurely when I first saw them. My phone wasn’t in my pocket. As soon as I hit the brakes to get it out of my bike bag they took off like a shot. I don’t know if it was my change in movement, or if the brakes made some noise I couldn’t hear, but they were scattered before I even had my hands on the camera and my gloves that are supposed to work with electronics don’t. I shot footage anyway, just in case I could catch any little bit of what I had just seen. No photo, it didn’t happen, right. Man, I wish I was filming already.

I first thought of the idea of filming rides to capture sights like this and other nature through seasonal changes for people who can’t enjoy them in person on the Big Creek Greenway. The Greenway has a lot more urban encroachment than the Silver Comet and Chief Ladiga trails do in most areas. It is built in a streambed. That’s good urban planning, to put recreational space in a flood zone. It protects the stream and habitat fairly well, and provides some flood water management in a place with no building potential. Because there is so much urban encroachment right up to the greenway, the animal population is more crowded and less skittish around humans. That sometimes makes for more individual sightings. The Silver Comet doesn’t have as much human pressure, but the animals are not as used to people constantly crowding into their space, so you may not actually notice the animals so much out there, even though the urban pressure is much lower. It’s also possible out there to get lost in the ride and miss the wildlife with the wide open stretches. In on the Greenway, the traffic of all kinds really prevents a responsible trail user from checking out mentally, even during non-pandemic crowd levels. I still think sometime that recovery rides on the Greenway would add a nice variety to the mix. Each trail has its benefits. On the Silver Comet you won’t get reliable nearly daily deer sightings. On the Greenway you’re not going to see a giant rafter of turkeys. That was a really awesome first.

Part of what makes this project perfect for Kickstarter is that the Kickstarter process will be in a sense a “market test” of sorts and that test will provide me some invaluable guidance, I will ride as much as I can regardless. As long as I am physically and financially able, I’m going to go out here and ride. How much that happens and whether or not I film it will depend on the Kickstarter. I believe in the video project, but people have to know it exists to make use of it. If the project gets support, then people will know and I will film and press for the max, if it doesn’t, i’ll know that the idea didn’t catch and people wouldn’t have seen it anyway. I have a constant flow of ideas. I have committed to this one, in part to make it through Covid-19 and beyond. In part to help others do the same.

Training Tuesday January 12

We are ecstatic that our isolation has ended, and even happier that no one ever became symptomatic.

We’ve been on one short ride since we gained our freedom. I spent a lot of time over the last two weeks deleting video clips that I think are awful, and naming video clips I might potentially use in part, and setting up other parts of our plan.

We’ve spent too much time absorbing the national news. I feel like riding my bike the way that Forest Gump started running, or finding a deserted island somewhere. I’m afraid to look and afraid to look away.

I’m optimistic about having something good to say in this spot next week. See you Then.

Footwear

The trails were wet. By the time we left, our shoes had more water in them than I realized they could hold.

Never underestimate the importance of footwear. If your feet work, they are your foundation. They are the metaphoric and literal means by which you take a step forward, and the point that transfers every foot-pound of torque your body can make into the pedals that power your trip to new places.

Shoes

Russ has large feet to support his tall body. They are pretty typical in proportion, so it’s not terribly difficult to find a good fit for him. He likes to clip in, most riders of road bikes do. So while he’s at the top end of sizes, Russ can usually find a decent pair of cycling shoes in one of the many shops around on the same day that he decides he needs a pair. The challenge there is to remember that supply lines aren’t normal, and there’s no telling what the situation will be next time he is ready.

My feet are wide. I have high arches and some issues like pinched nerves and plantar fasciitis. I have to be careful to keep those in check because they could end my riding if I don’t. And, because pain- not good. I don’t want to clip in. I’m awkward and have mediocre balance. I may give it a shot for the efficiency, but I’m a wary reluctant bride who doesn’t want to invest in a fall. Shoes that work well for me don’t seem to stay in production for very long. Sometimes, I choose men’s shoes for the width. I’m not even sure if the Shimano shoes I have now ( pictured above covered in trail gunk) are men’s or women’s. I walked into REI with the last ones and said “Do you still carry these?” The sales rep climbed a ladder and came down with my size. It was the first time buying shoes was easy, and may be the first time I got to wear the same shoes twice in a row. What I like about them first is that they are wide enough. Second, that they have an open honeycomb top sole and even though they look hot, they ride as cool as my sandals did. And lastly, the sole and inner sole are stiff but comfortable. I forgot my socks once and was surprised to find that I could comfortably ride in these without socks. I didn’t feel any of the hardware I don’t use on the bottom, and I didn’t have any blisters.

This photo is about 11 years old. We took it when Keen was doing a “Show us Your Keens” promotion.

The love of my life, as far as cycling shoes goes, was a pair of Keen Cycling Sandals with a footprint like the ones on the left in this review. The big roomy closed toe box was great for protection and my foot shape. It even managed to keep my toes warm enough in cool (but not cold) temperatures. Back then I didn’t notice the softer sole mentioned in the review, but it might have caused me problems as I was using them to train for a century. (To be really clear here, I was training to complete the century, not to win it. My great success was coming in last, just before they closed the kitchen and rolled up the sidewalks, and I’m not even embarrassed by that. We worked hard to accomplish it). I must have bought those Keens at the end of their product cycle. I started looking for a back-up pair long before I finally replaced them. I couldn’t even find the ones on the right anywhere but in places that were selling New Old Stock at triple retail. I eventually found a pair at retail prices. I sized up. They were still too narrow. I have them in my car under the seat as back up for times when I forget to bring my shoes. I used them once since the initial ride. They changed a canceled ride into a short ride.

Socks

I love all the high tech socks woven specially for cycling (or other sports). They feel so good when they’re new, soft and strong. While building mileage like I am now, though, I need simple toe-socks. The first time I worked through the pinched nerves, the podiatrist suggested that I put some separation between my toes. I did all the searches and tried all the toe separator suggestions. Most came with sticky adhesives and none stayed in place. Not even the home grown solutions worked. Then I remembered the toe-socks I bought in Japan. To find a selection in internet searches “Five Fingers Toe Socks” gives the best result. And toe socks were a dream solution, plenty of separation and they stay in place without any sticky adhesives. I like merino wool as well as some others that Injinji makes. They are thick and last well. The ones above are cute and soft. they are a little less thick than all of my injinji socks. I got them to make my granddaughter giggle and can use them as long as my problems are under control. If they get worse though, I’ll be replacing these blue ones below. Sometimes these socks pull at my heel a bit. If you’re looking for some and on the edge for sizes, I’d size up, especially the wool socks that seem to shrink a little over time.

Fantasy Island Footwear

I’d love it if digital printing and maker stations made it to the bicycle shoe store at a price that’s competitive with mass produced economies of scale. People like me with atypical shoe needs could get a great shoe with a great fit at the same price everyone else pays. Perhaps customization of decoration could help to make “normals” want to buy them too. I do actually realize that there is sewing involved and this dream is not nearly so easy as it sounds.

Training Tuesday December 29

This week I was able to ride several days in a row. It was a little cool, but felt really good. Russ wasn’t able to ride much, that didn’t feel good. Then there was a holiday and weather gap. So, it was a lot of riding then a pause.

On the last day before the pause, the Tara Drummond Trailhead provided a first time experience. Llamas! And I wouldn’t have seen them if my day hadn’t become a disaster and rearranged itself.

Tracy Monroe

It was such perfect timing too. Last week while looking for fall photos to publish I noticed how many more I had that looked like summer. I needed to take more pictures. And what to my wondering eyes should appear this week? Well, this week gave me llamas. I’ve been using this trail for 20 years and seen a lot of unusual things out here, really, a lot, but never llamas.

Tracy from Wit’s End Llamas was very nice and knowledgeable. She talked and shared and posed for me. She was out raising awareness for a virtual trek. It will end soon, but if you’re impressed by what you see on these pages, charitable organizations are just as happy to receive your donations when they aren’t actively promoting as they are any other time.

Under the category of “Things I didn’t know”, I saw this while looking at the links on the card she gave me. Did you know that nanobodies exist? That’s pretty cool.

Later in the week we did some work on the project video and liked some of what we did, but still need to shoot a bunch more, a bunch. That’s frustrating, but I’m trying to stay patient and upbeat about it.

See you next week.

Training Tuesday Dec 22

It’s cooling off. The Christmas crush has come, and for me, mostly gone. A few days ago I edited the final dates for expecting Dec 25 delivery from my Etsy shop to now say that everything is backed up at the USPS. Don’t expect new orders by Christmas and don’t expect tracking to be operational either. I have this week off, and while I’m still mega-busy catching up on everything, only weather (and a backlog of chores and overdue home repair) should keep me from riding every day for the next week and editing my video. That’s a good feeling. I look forward to some accomplishment and exercise related endorphins.

The dandelion bloom above was left on the saddle by my grandaughter during the summer to cheer me up. It worked perfectly. This week I switched from that Brooks saddle back to the split seat gel saddle to see what effect that would have. My last three rides were with the split saddle. At first I thought that really helped with the tingling and cramping toes, but the first two rides were short, and now with the most recent, it didn’t seem so much like it helped. Time will tell, and nothing will help as much as getting off a saddle and on to a seat in a recumbent for half my ride time.

I had some right shoulder pain these last few rides. It might be old cycling rotator cuff injuries. I guess I’ve averaged a cycling fall every 2 decades. During 2 of those falls, I caught myself with my right arm, not a dislocations by any means, but each time it was several weeks before I felt semi-normal.

Strength training was always part of the plan. I need the lower back machine just to get through life, and I wanted the strength training to help me with knee strength (and everything else if I fall). I kept my membership at the Y current, but it’s likely been a year since I’ve been in. Once they opened back up, indoor gyms were still listed as higher risk activities. Hopefully the vaccine will provide sustained immunity and be widely used. It’s possible I could be back in the gym by summer.

Fantasy Island

For Fantasy Island training, I would magically acquire multi-millions so I could have home on acres and area without an HOA and with little in the way of zoning requirements so that I could have basement gym of my own for Covid-safe workouts. It would be filled with cybex machines, a water rower, and a lateral elliptical among other things.

Yesterday was the solstice. For the next half a year, the sunshine and my potential time for a ride will increase a little bit every day. I’m looking forward to the new year and hoping that it will be one like no other… in a good way.

Headwear

This is headwear as in, not the helmet. I have sensitive skin and helmets come with disappointing washing instructions. I don’t understand what problem there can be with washing a regular helmet, but I do actually want the protection, so I follow the instructions. That makes me need something washable and breathable between the helmet and me during all seasons. For some people, wearing a headband is about trying to avoid sweat streaming into their eyes, and once I’m doing centuries across Georgia and Alabama through the heat of the summer, I may have that issue as well. For now, I want something to relieve the skin irritation so that I’ll wear my helmet properly.

With the exception of dollar store headbands (which don’t have a good bulk versus benefit trade off) the headbands that I’ve tried are all expensive, so, as a seamstress, I’ve tried my own versions too. I haven’t found the solution to end all searching for something better. Surprisingly small differences in thickness cause re-adjustments in my chin straps, so I’d like a bunch of the same thing, once I choose that thing. It keeps me from constantly adjusting the straps. Chin straps are also a problem. I just wash them anyway, especially in the summer.

My first experiment with a solution was a pleated cotton band made of woven fabric from REI. It had a covered elastic bit at the back. The pleats expand to the desired width, the elastic kept the fit snug and it didn’t interfere with the helmet fit because it was low in back. I made some of my own. They were awkward to sew and it was frustratingly time consuming for a little headband. I could have made something much more impressive in the same amount of time. The nice part was that I made mine of Liberty’s Cotton Lawn. I could swim in that stuff, not just the gorgeous look of prints like William Morris originals, but the feel too. Going into their store is like a little slice of heaven for a fan like me, and paging through what they have online now is always drool worthy, so I liked the look too. I don’t have a picture of these to show. REI doesn’t sell that one anymore and the ones I made with my beautiful Liberty’s Lawn were lost in a house fire.

My most recent headband trial was from Headsiweats. I ordered an assortment of hats and bands in grab bags. This is the headband I liked best from Headsweats. I was afraid I wouldn’t Like the terry, but it was very lightweight. And, after having sewn headbands, I have more respect for the cost too. I also ordered what is to date, my favorite mask from them. I ordered a grab bag for that too, and they sent me Bigfoot Camo. That doesn’t just appeal to my sense of the ridiculous, it is also the best fitting and most comfortable for me, and seems high in safety as well (but a little too small on Russ). At first I was disappointed that no one seemed to notice all those little sasquatches, but then, I realized I didn’t want them that close.

Headbands for winter are easy. The stretchy fleece bands that widen to protect ears are good from every company that I’ve tried. The problem is that I need to wear my sunglasses now, and at the same time, I’m looking for mask solutions to see me through the winter. (I loved the neck gaiters for riding, but then research came out that they weren’t the better thing to do. I experimented with layers to improve performance, but haven’t found the solution I like). I need headwear that allows all of the pieces of gear on and around my ears to actually stay on my head AND doesn’t interfere with my chin straps or my hearing. Anything that is near the ear canal seems to create that effect you get when you hear the ocean in a seashell. So, headbands need to be completely over my ears in colder temps, and probably completely off in summer.

Options from Smartwool and Junk look like they might be worth trying. I know nothing about Junk, but I have a few pieces of Smartwool and I love them. Moths finally found my first smartwool shirt. I keep thinking I’m wearing it for the last time, that I’m going to cut it up and sew it into leggings for my granddaughter, and then I wash it and next time I want a base layer, I put it on. It wasn’t made for cycling, but it is STILL a favorite and it STILL goes under as a layer every time I ride under 60 degrees.

Fantasy Island

If I could have anything for a headband? It might not be a headband in the traditional sense at all. Something made of Liberty’s or Smartwool (in a William Morris print, of course) that attaches to the inside of the helmet with bits of velcro or microsnaps. Maybe it would have a layer of ultra thin cotton terry or merino cloth on the side that touches me, and it would be reversible (as in inside out) or, come with a laundry bag, so that it doesn’t collect loose threads or damage other clothes in the wash. I also have a redesign in mind on those first headbands I made. I may get busy sewing soon, but it will wait till after I do more mask experiments.

Training Tuesday October 7-12

Goal    99 miles, or whatever gets me back in the swing.

Actual Total  miles 48

1st Ride 14 miles

2nd Ride 16 miles

3rd Ride 18 miles

The bug I had hung on for a bit. I was tired enough to fall asleep while sitting up a couple of days in a row, so it wasn’t a great week. Back to back health issues wasn’t the most fun either, but, hey, there was no point where I thought “This feels different from anything I’ve had before, I wonder if it’s Covid?” While I stayed home a little more and was a little extra careful just in case it turned for the worse, there was no time when a Dr would have suggested that I be tested.

Nearing the end of the training week, I was feeling well enough to ride in the rain, but Russ was dragging too. Before we got too far we cut it short. The last wave of Hurricane Delta’s was due to bring in the deluge before long, but I stopped to take a picture. The skeleton on the white bike changes props a bit from time to time, but, it’s always there. I think it’s gallows humor intended to call attention to the a sheer drop behind it. No one wants to be the reason a ghost bike memorial was placed. The skeleton on the stump is a little Halloween extra.

While I was taking the photo I called out to Russ that I was stopping. That set off the resident dog, who barked up a little phone tree like reaction among dogs all around us and stirred the Great Pyrenees that was out previously ignoring us. He moved in hot pursuit of me, but didn’t quite catch me. It was the biggest thing that’s ever chased me, but I was more wary years back when a German Shepard came after me. I read a Silver Comet review recently complaining about dogs and thought that dog issues are actually rare. Since then, I’ve had as many dogs chase me as I’ve had in the previous 2 decades of riding on the trail. We made it back to the car wet and had a lot of trail grit slung on every part of us, but no canine wounds.

It was a sluggish week, but I’m feeling optimistic for 99 miles next week

Training Tuesday September 30- October 6

Goal    90 miles, or whatever gets me back in the swing.

Actual Total  miles 95

1st Ride 12 miles

2nd Ride 20 miles

3rd Ride 20 miles

4th Ride 29 miles

5th Ride 14 miles

Total Ride  95 miles

So much for combining my miles into 2 rides! The first ride was a 12 mile “test out the new tire” ride. I was still feeling iffy, but it was an easy ride that felt fine.

2nd ride was 20 miles, which should have been easy if I wasn’t recovering from whatever that bite was. At the end of the ride I was a little wobbly getting off of the bike. I was afraid I had over done it, but by the time I’d been in the car for a few minutes, I was blasting the stereo and car dancing.

3rd ride, I didn’t have much time in the first place and I got out late, but I wanted to do the ride so I wouldn’t be stressed getting my miles later in the week. 20 miles again. I was chasing sunset, so, the last 5-7 miles were pretty fast for me. I had that sprint energy boost afterward.

4th ride, was nice. I could have made it to the goal for the week, but Russ didn’t have the miles in him, so we cut it short at 29.

5th ride. The grandson wanted to ride his mountain bike, so I took him out and put in those last few miles. I figured where I needed to ride to get the exact number of miles, but someone had stolen the street signs on the overpasses, so I ended up doing the extra 5 miles.

I was beginning to feel back on track and the rides were so short and spread out that there was none of the endorphin roller coaster. But as soon as I got back up a little, one of the grandchildren caught something, and now I’m fighting it off. We’ll see how next week goes.

I have 5 extra weeks baked in to my schedule for setbacks and holidays, but I’d prefer not to use them when I don’t have to. It feels really good to have them out there in the future, much better than the feeling of having them back there in the past.  The “Etsy store” is moving into the “busy season”, and organization is still my challenge. I don’t want a crunch week when weather and everything else hits at once and I have no more space to stretch the schedule.