Wednesday, August 31, 2011

15 milers

Last week I started to up my daily commute from 10 miles to 15 miles. The actual round trip is only 6 miles, but I add extra to it. There doesn't seem to be a problem with adding the extra 5 miles on a daily basis. My body is absorbing it just fine. In fact, today I may do a 20-miler.

Because the sun is setting so much earlier now, it will soon become impossible to do a beach run after work, as I need a minimum of 3 hours to get down and back before dark. In fact, once the daylight savings kicks in, it will be very difficult to do the 15-miler and get home before dark, so I may need to switch it up and start doing the majority of the biking in the morning and cut the commute ride to the short one. Once we hit the shortest days of the year in December, I have a feeling that I may be doing a little night riding, which is not my preferred method of cycling. Either that or I have to change up my work schedule to begin earlier.

I hope to psych up for a 100k this weekend. Now that I know the bike path below the marina is 11.75 miles long, I can accomplish it and will just do it to the end. I'm going to change the settings on my odometer to measure kilometers instead of miles so that I make sure I get in the required amount.

New things purchased for the bike from eBay: air pressure gauge, 3 more tire levers, a bottle cage with mount that attaches to the handlebars, a pair of cycling socks that are cow-themed, and a small double pannier for the top bar that will hold cell phone and snacks, making them a lot more accessible on the road.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Time of Death

Okay, I'm calling it. Time of death - unknown, but it's dead. Yes, I'm officially declaring my metabolism dead. Dead as a doornail. Dead as a rock. Just dead.

No amount of cycling will revive it which is freaking annoying. With nearly 40 hours spent on the bike this month and last month, you'd think SOMETHING would have kicked into gear in the metabolism, but no, it's dead. Doesn't mean I'm going to stop cycling because quite frankly, I like the adventure of it, but as a way to burn the excess fuel? Not really a great tool, and I'm not devoting more hours per month to it because quite frankly, I have a life too. Will a road bike help or just be more of the same? I don't know. Yes, my legs are stronger and leaner, but from the hips up, that part is along for the ride in a completely passive manner. Absolutely nothing is changing or happening. So, maybe it's not worth spending 40 hours or more a month riding. Maybe it's not worth doing endurance rides. You can't beat a dead horse. My metabolism is just dead. End of story. In a whole month nothing has changed. Nothing. And here's something else - 40 hrs might have only burned 3 lbs (according to Map My Ride).

I need an attitude adjustment.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


In October of 2008, I had a gigantic cookie order with Showtime Networks, and I produced about 8500 cookies for them within a month. With some of the earnings at the end, I decided to purchase a bike. I drove to Santa Monica to a bike shop somewhere on 4th Street, and I met my friend, who agreed to put the bike in his big SUV and drive it to my West Hollywood apartment.

I wasn't at all bike savvy. My only criteria was that I wanted thick tires and not those skinny little things that go flat all the time. At least, that had been my experience in the past.

The shop was having sales to get rid of their 2008 inventory and get ready for the 2009. I test rode two bikes - both by GT, but the first one, which was blue, was perhaps too large a frame for me and I didn't feel at ease or in control. To prove the point, I wobbled so badly that I lightly crashed into the side of a parked delivery truck. After pulling myself away from the vehicle, I wobbled back to the shop and chose the other model, which I immediately felt in control of. My criteria for the big tires was met. The bike, originally priced around $500, had been reduced to $350, and I paid it, along with a helmet, bottle cage, bottle and headlight.

It was a hybrid. A GT Timberline Fitness Series. I didn't know what a hybrid was, and even if I had, I'm not sure it would have mattered to me at the time.

I rode the bike somewhat regularly for the first few months, then less frequently, and then it just stayed parked in my living room.... waiting. Partly it waited because when a tire would lose air after sitting for several months, it was a hassle to walk it up to the gas station to fill it up. I also had issues with my hands going numb on the handle bars because there is only one position for the hands, and they never move.

In 2010 my mother came out to visit for my birthday and she asked what I wanted, and I immediately said "A bicycle pump." I equally wanted riding gloves, however. We took a little trip over to I. Martin Imports, which is about a mile away, and she bought me the pump, and I bought the gloves. Now I had no excuse not to ride, right?

Well, I did ride again on occasion, but it wasn't until push came to shove with my unreliable car that I'd finally had enough and decided it was time to ride the bike to and from work - 6 miles round trip. That was 4 months ago. Now my daily commute is a 15-miler and I've even done a 58.1 mile excursion.

In the last 4 months of riding, I have learned a lot about the hybrid. One of the things I've discovered is that no matter how many miles I work out each week or how furiously I pedal, I cannot ever keep pace with a road bike. Those nubby tires and front and seat shock absorbers do me in. It's a bit like slogging through mud all the time. It is also impossible to stand and pedal which means that I am sitting on the powerful gluts muscles when I am trying to power up a hill, and this pulls on my lower back and creates tension, discomfort and downright pain. The riding gloves help some with the numbness but not entirely.

I have once pushed the bike to 20 mph going on a slight downhill. Several times I have gotten to 18 mph, even on an uphill grade, but I have little hope of getting it much faster than that.

I don't regret my decision to buy the bike. It's a good starter bike, but now I have the cycling bug, and a hybrid can't get me to where I want to go or be. It will simply never keep up, and I have the itch to ride far.

A road bike is in my future, probably a Trek Madone, and I. Martin will be just the place to get it.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Unplanned Rest

Although I rested on Saturday, I did not plan to rest on Sunday. However, I either had food poisoning or stomach flu, and I ended up sleeping most of the day. It did make me think, however, what I would do when on a marathon cycling event, like a ride across the USA, what would happen if I got some food poisoning. I guess it could happen, not that it's a real worry, and I guess I'd just have to hole up somewhere until I was strong enough again. I wished I had some Gatorade on me today for electrolyte replacement.

I am starting to look at getting a road bike although I don't have any funds for it. However, I can be researching and finding out what's best for me, what I need, etc. Any marathons for me will not be for a few years anyhow. As always, I have to wait for the elderly pets to pass on. Also, I want to be on the other side of menopause, which I am starting to work my way through.

I really don't know what I'm looking for in a road bike, but I know my local bike shop will be helpful to me. Then, of course, I have to look at accessories for the bike for endurance and marathon travel. How light or heavy I travel will depend on the time of year and what part of the country I am in. I'm thinking and planning...

Saturday, August 20, 2011


It has not been a good week for cycling as far as mileage goes, and this morning I did not get up and go for my endurance ride, mainly because I don't think my lower back can endure it right now. The muscles there are still sore from last Saturday's ride, and my lumbar feel stiff and unyielding. It's just that old injury.

Yesterday I rode the bike 9 miles, which is the longest distance I have ridden since last Saturday. I did not try to go fast or even bump up my cadence to 12-14 mph. I just chose a slow pace of 8-9 mph so as not to put too much strain on my lower back, but even that may have been too much.

Last night I went to the first meeting of the Los Angeles County Bike Coalition for a West Hollywood chapter. There were about 13 other cyclists there, and we all have an interest in raising awareness of cycling in West Hollywood, getting more bike lanes, getting the community involved in cycling, that sort of thing. The people who are trying to start the chapter are already members of the LACBC, and I'm thinking of joining. When we were all introducing ourselves, I mentioned that I was looking to network with other riders and possibly find people to ride with since I always ride alone. So a couple of people talked about some group rides of a few miles each. Well, that's fine, I guess. I'm thinking more of the 25+ mile rides. However, I think there are a couple of people that might be candidates. Then again, there's something nice about being alone on the bike and just doing it.

I do have to figure out this lower back thing. I never had an issue with it even on 43 mile rides. I know that the bike puts a lot of strain on my lower back because I'm sitting fairly upright, even when going up hills. Am I not powering properly and is this causing the strain? I simply cannot stand and power the bike without being on the seat. I had a 10-speed when I was younger that I could power that way but this hybrid doesn't seem to do it, so those muscles around my lumber take an enormous amount of stress, and powering in that unnatural position also puts extra stress on my knees.

Well, I guess I'll just scale back the riding, ride at a slower pace and not push my lower back.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

More post half-century ride thoughts

Here it is, Thursday. Five days after the half-century ride and I still don't feel totally recovered. I wasn't expecting the difference between 43 miles and 58 miles to have such an effect on me (43 miles being my previous longest ride), but with this latest ride an old injury reared its painful head.

Back in the early 1980's when I was at the University of Colorado in Pueblo, I didn't have a car - just my younger sister's 10-speed bike. It got me to school, it got me to work. One day I had a piano lesson with a local jazz pianist, and he let me borrow a jazz record or two. I didn't really have a way to carry them except in one arm and try to control the bike with the other. His last words to me as I left his house on my bike were, "Don't fall off your bike." I got to the end of his driveway, lost my balance and flipped off the curb. The next thing I knew, I was looking up at the sky, flat on my back on the asphalt. The piano teacher didn't see it happen or I'm certain he would have come out to help me. No one, in fact, saw the incident. I didn't think too much of it, just scraped myself up, got back on the bike, and wobbled back to my apartment.

The bruising was about as black as I've ever seen bruises, but my lower back took a hit much harder than I realized. Not long after the incident I went to the emergency room with such severe back pain that I could hardly breathe. They sent me home with pain killers and muscle relaxants, which helped, but something worse began to go wrong. When I would sit in class, I was fine, but my hips would stiffen in that position making it very difficult for me to get up and walk to the next class. Usually I limped very painfully to the next class. This went on for the remainder of my university days.

That hip stiffening still happens if I sit on the hard concrete steps of the front of my building for too long. It will cause me to limp back to my apartment. I used to have a car that would also cause that problem with the way the seat was positioned.

The half-century ride reawakened that old injury and its aftermath, so my recovery has been a bit slower. If I have one of those hip stiffening episodes, it can take about 2 weeks to recover from it fully.

I will do at least a 35-miler this weekend, but probably no longer than that. I need more time to recover.

My advice to anyone who takes a tumble from a bike is not to assume you are okay just because you get back on your bike and ride off. Some injuries take a little time to develop. Some injuries you carry for life.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Post half-century ride thoughts

Now that I'm a little more recovered from the half century ride, I look back on what I could have done differently. The ride itself was fine and the nutrition for it also seemed fine. What I didn't think about doing was being prepared afterwards for the exhaustion.

The post-ride temptation to fuel up on carbs was heavy. My body was craving them like mad. The temptation wouldn't have been as strong had I pre-prepared some foods to eat that were waiting for me at home which required no extra energy. Have the big salad already made and chilling. Have the meat already cooked (if eating meat). I should have been ready, and I was not. I also should have had at least a gallon of water chilling, because I had an insatiable thirst for many hours afterwards, and not only was it insatiable, I only wanted something COLD. Again, I was not prepared for that, but I'm in a learning process, and the learning curve is high for me. Next time I'll know these things... because there will be a next time. Not sure when, but there will be one. This weekend?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Bad, Bad Cyclists

I see it every time I am on my bike... bad cyclists doing one of the following things:

1. Running red lights. Hey, just because there's no opposing traffic doesn't mean you get to go.
2. Cycling into oncoming traffic. Some cyclists still believe that's how it's done. Uh, no.
3. Running stop signs... and not just running them but blazing through them as if they aren't there.
4. Cycling and talking on a cell phone. Totally illegal.
5. Cycling while listening to an ipod or any other mp3 device - also illegal.

I yelled at one cyclist a few days ago. Called him an "idiot" for running a red light and making a left hand turn. He turned and looked at me but didn't respond. Okay, I was in a meltdown day, I admit. I wanted to yell at the pedestrians on the bike path too - a path that's clearly marked "bikes ONLY," but I didn't. I would have only worn my voice out.

And this I've seen a couple of times: cycling and smoking. I mean, what is the point????

As for riding on the sidewalks, it's supposed to be illegal for anyone over 12. However, although I don't make a practice of it, sometimes I do pull up onto the corner to take a break out of traffic and get a drink. Or, if traffic is very backed up at a light, I can lose the light waiting way in the back, so I'll temporarily pop onto the sidewalk to go around them and get to the front of the line. I will also pop up onto it sometimes after crossing an intersection if the traffic is tight and not giving me room to get into traffic (I've been squeezed out of the flow and to the side more than once). When it clears safely, then I am back onto the road. However, I'm probably a 95% roadie.

Still Obsessing

I knew I wanted a bigger ride today - one that would push me over 50 and get me my first half century ride. I studied the bike paths, measured things out...tried to go to bed early. Then the obsessing about it began and no sleep. Honestly, sometimes I think I should just get up and go at 3:30 a.m. rather than toss and turn and obsess about it.

I set the alarm for 5:40 a.m. and after a brief dog walk and feeding the animals, I made myself some scrambled eggs, then was out of the door at 6:06. I was about 1 mile from home when I realized I'd left my water bottles in the refrigerator (note to self: put a checklist on the back of the door and make sure everything is accounted for before leaving!!). So that wasted some time coming back to fetch it, although it gave me 2 bonus miles. I'll take them!

The part of the ride I think I was obsessing about was taking the bike path south of Marina Del Rey, and by the time I arrived to do that leg of the journey, I had already put 30 miles on the bike. Since the bike path was supposed to be about 8 miles long (per, I thought that would give me an additional 16, plus there would still be another 14 to get back home once I returned to the marina. Then I looked down at the bike path... and it said 11.50 miles to the end. I wasn't sure if I had 23 miles in me plus the return 14, but I decided to go for at least several miles and see how I felt.

First of all, the bike path from Venice Beach north to Temescal Canyon (6+ miles) is pretty much a flat path. The 11.5 mile bike path south of the marina from Bonsall Bridge to Redondo Beach is not. While I know I need to work on my hills, I found them aggravating. Then too there was the issue my bike is having with the clicking noise whenever I have to accelerate. I kept trying to convince myself to do all 11.5 miles down and back, but by the time I got to the Manhattan Beach pier, I knew I would already get enough miles to push me over 50 for the ride, and that was the goal, so I turned around and headed back - and those darn little inclines were even more aggravating on the way back. I was so glad to get back to the Bonsall Bridge, go around the marina, and then head back home in city traffic. I actually had a much better cadence on the city bike lanes going home than on that bike path.

One special note about either El Segundo beach or Dockweiler beach - lots of people were having cookouts on the beach, and the smell of stuff grilling was practically enough to make me want to stop and beg for food.

I took frequent breaks to refuel on liquid or get a bite of the snacks I brought. I think I went through about 75oz of liquid, 32 of which was Gatorade. I really think having the eggs before I left helped, although two were probably not enough. Four would have been nicer. I even took two bathroom breaks - using the handicapped stalls because they are big enough for me to pull the bike in.

I finished the ride at 12:55pm. I didn't try to be in a race with myself and beat the clock. I chose a cadence that would get me through the ride without sapping my energy. It was only about accomplishing the 50, which I did. It was actually 58.1 miles. The only real soreness I had was in my wrists and hands.

Oh, and those 5 regained lbs? Lost them between Thursday and today.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Hard Learning Curve

Yesterday I was antsy to get out and ride. It had felt like my riding for the week had been pretty dismal, so when things slowed at work, I took off an hour early so that I could make sure I could get to the beach and back before dark.

The interesting thing about riding to the beach is that the majority of the ride is spent in city traffic just to get there and back. Once I arrive, I'm on a mission on the bike path and don't really stop to enjoy the experience of just being there. I am always in a time crunch to get the job done and get back, because traffic is slow and the sun is setting earlier every day now. Soon a ride after work won't even be possible and I'll be doing long rides in the morning or on the weekends only. Until then, I can still get to the beach and back without darkness if I leave at 4:00. If it's not too hot, a 24-oz water bottle will generally suffice for the trip, and if it doesn't suffice and I don't have more water with me, I'll stop at Essential Chocolate Desserts in Culver City for a water refill (and maybe a pistachio macaroon if I have cash on me).

I hadn't really planned on making a trip to the beach, but it seemed a logical thing to do at 4:00 rather than just finish my 10-mile route. It also had the benefit of giving me extra miles which I really wanted. I had actually planned to get up and leave for Temescal Canyon at 6:00 a.m. (the 35-mile route), but I really struggle with those early mornings because I obsess about having to get up early and then can't sleep. More than one early attempt at a long ride has been sabotaged this way, and I've made two longer runs on little to no sleep, so that's a pain (although riding down La Cienega Blvd. at 6:00 a.m. is a joy because there is no traffic!).

I also needed to deal with the meltdown I was having and felt a bike ride would help to release some of that energy. It did. I ended up doing 27 miles, and it felt good. For the first time, I even got the bike up to 20 mph, although it was brief.

And one more thing.... this morning 2 of those 5 regained lbs were gone

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Gotta Ride

So, I'm cycling. Been cycling for the past three months very steadily with increasing amounts of mileage. I had been thinking about using it to commute since I only work 3 miles from home (but I make it into a 10-mile route), but push came to shove when the car became unreliable and I'd used up all my AAA call for the year. I couldn't afford to pay for a tow if I got some place and my car wouldn't start again, so I've been nursing the car along with very infrequent trips and mostly biking.

I don't have a lock for the bike, so I don't use the bike to go to the store or anything like that. It's strictly for commute and for exercise.

Now the exercise thing is baffling because quite frankly, it isn't a great way to lose any weight unless you are burning it up on a racing bike or doing marathon endurance types of rides constantly. A little commuting? Doesn't really do much for you, and I've always maintained that from the hips up, the rest of you is just along for the ride.

At first it was only commuting that I was doing, but I had a goal to be able to make it to the beach (10+ miles each way depending on route) and back, so I kept pushing myself to try a little more, and one day I just went for it. No problem. It was lovely. So I've been doing rides a little further. Now I'm doing a 35-miler once a week on top of the commuting. My longest ride has been 43 miles. I want to do longer rides during the week and also on the weekends.

I had lost 20 lbs so far... but now I've gained back 5 and want to cry. Meltdown would be more like it. I haven't figured the balance of nutrition yet. I don't really have to change anything for the daily commutes, but for the longer endurance rides, I don't know the proper nutrition yet. I don't know how to feed my body on a longer ride to keep my energy sustained without overloading on carbs because I really only need them that one day.

I do think I will cut the sports drinks out on the commute days. No need for that, but I'm not sure I will cut them out for the endurance rides.

Vicious cycle, that's for sure.