Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Second Class Citizen

About a week ago, I had some errands to run around town. It was actually a lovely, albeit brisk, autumn day with a small amount of ice on some roadways from snow that had fallen a couple of days prior.

I think that this time of year might actually be my favorite for riding in many ways. It's cool (sometimes cold), but with a few layers on a sunny day it can actually be quite nice to get out on a bike. Plus, as I've mentioned prior, I have found motorists to be far kinder and frequently more aware when the weather turns cold, at least as a general rule.

On this particular day as I pedaled about town, one of my stops was to a store that recently opened in our currently-being-constructed mall. The mall itself is a bit of a hot topic locally, with some residents taking issue with the removal of the former indoor mall in favor of the outdoor one under way, as well as some being disappointed (to put it politely) about the types of stores going in to this new construction.

But, since I'm not much of a shopper anyway (unless it's related to bicycles), this hasn't been of great concern to me. I'm actually happy to see something being built that will hopefully get use and bring some tax dollars into the local economy.
Part of the discussion about this new build encompassed thoughts on making the area more bike friendly, and even improving paths to this location on heavily motorized travel roads. So, when I pedaled my way through the construction zone to the store I was needing to visit, I was unhappy to see that there were no bike racks anywhere to be found.

I was informed several years ago that bike racks were a requirement for any new construction taking place in city limits, so I was definitely surprised to see that none existed. It was especially disappointing because I was visiting a sporting goods retailer, which one would think would be more likely to push for bike racks outside their establishment.

But, I figured I'd wait to see what happens, as frequently racks tend to get installed at the very last point of construction. As you can see from the photo above though, there aren't a whole lot of options for locking up. So, my choices became a stop sign at the intersection, or one of the light poles. I opted for the light pole as it seemed a bit sturdier, despite it being a bit more awkward because of the cement barrier built up around it.
After finishing up at this store, I needed to travel to a couple of other locations. I was debating which way to go as I pedaled through the parking lot, but ultimately knew I'd have to cross a busy road. So, as I sat waiting at the signal to cross, I checked out the traffic all around me, happy to just be out on such a beautiful day, and lost in my own thoughts.

Suddenly, I was kicked out of my blissful utopia by someone screaming, "Get a car, you loser!" I looked around, wondering who this person was yelling at, only to come to the realization that he was speaking to me. I must've looked confused or lost because he continued his rant, "Yeah, you! Get a car!!" At which point he began to honk his horn like a stark-raving mad lunatic. By this time, the cross signal had changed and I was heading across the street and could no longer make out what this person was attempting to say to me, but I couldn't help but laugh as I crossed the road.

It's frankly not the first time someone has shouted at me about being on a bike, but I couldn't quite figure out what it was I'd done to upset him so much. I was following all the laws and rules, waiting at the red light. I'd pressed the cross button and waited for it to turn before proceeding. I was out of traffic, and honestly not in any way disrupting his day because he was heading in a different direction anyway.

Was it just my existence that had upset him? The fact that I was smiling and actually enjoying my day? Why was I automatically deemed a "loser," and furthermore why did he assume I don't have a car. Why would my not having a motorized vehicle make me a loser anyway?

As I reached the other side of the road and his signal had changed green, I could hear the engine revving and his screeching tires as he made his way around the corner in the opposite direction. I'll admit it was one time I was grateful to have so many cars around me as witnesses in case of some sort of incident, but as is usually the case in these moments, the yelling was about as bad as things became.

Still, as I pedaled (ironically, back to pick up our car which was being serviced) I couldn't help but have an imaginary conversation with this fellow. I always wish that these moments weren't so anger-filled and that I could have a rational conversation with people involved in these run-ins, in hopes of understanding what it is that upsets them, and hopefully having the opportunity to explain to him/her that there is nothing transpiring that in any way disrupts their life.

There seem to be the few who simply despise people on bicycles and the anger seems misplaced, in my opinion. More often than not anger arises due to traffic delays and if anything I am helping to alleviate this problem by being on a bicycle. I understand that there are always going to be those who are not courteous or don't follow the law, but the same can be said for motorists as well. If a car rolls a stop sign, no one rolls down their window to yell at them, but if I were to do the same on a bicycle, even if I look in all directions and am aware that there is no traffic coming, motorists seem to have need to yell at those on a bike because of this.

Perhaps some of this is born out of fear? I know some motorists who worry when they see a cyclist because they are concerned that the cyclist will suddenly weave or dart out into traffic. While I cannot assure anyone that a cyclist wouldn't do exactly that, I think as a general rule, most people on a bike are well aware that those in a car have the size and weight advantage and are not going to ride unpredictably because they do not have a death wish.

People on bicycles often seem to be perceived as second class citizens in many parts of this country as is evidenced through lack of bike parking at establishments, proper/adequate/safe bike infrastructure, as well as lack of laws to protect vulnerable road users from injury and/or death. The pervasive thought that those riding a bike are not paying for the roads has been proven time and again a faulty argument, yet I hear this as reasoning for not wanting bikes on roadways as well.

After many years of writing here and reading in other places, I still find frustration with the lack of urgency and speed in resolving problematic roadways that would allow all road users to get to destinations in peace, with ease of travel and safety for all. There are ways to solve these issues, but the progress always seems slow and at times non-existent, and I frequently wonder if change will take that anger away from some motorists who seem to feel rage for no real reason at all.

What do you view as the problem with your local roads (if any)? Could issues be simply resolved or will it take massive change over many years (or decades)? Have you encountered an angry motorist when you were not impeding traffic? What was your response?

Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving (for those in the U.S.) and safe two-wheeled travels wherever you roam.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Choice to Ride a Bicycle

Standing with my back to the street and bent over my bicycle, a woman approached on the sidewalk. "Excuse me," she began. I had been lost in my own little world, nearly tardy to an appointment and attempting to lock my bike to the only rack close to my destination, so my face likely read (unintentionally) a bit cranky as I turned around. "Do you happen to know where the other used book store is in the area?" Used book store? I searched my brain because I was aware we were standing in front of one of them, just as I knew there was another not far away... but which direction was it? North or south?

Our downtown area has about 5 blocks that have remarkably similar storefronts, so it can be a bit disorienting when trying to point someone in the right direction, especially when caught off guard or when standing in the middle of this section of streets. I myself, even after living here for many years, sometimes pace the blocks trying to find an establishment. "I believe it is 1-2 blocks south of here," I finally said, "On the same side of the street."

The woman thanked me and then said, "You have a nice bike there. Do you bike to your destinations often? You must live close by." I smiled, "Yes, I do ride often. I live a couple of miles from this spot, but it's not too bad to get anywhere in the city. It's often a lot easier to find parking too." She smiled and then continued, "I wish I could choose to bike to the places I go." Before I could inquire further, she had about-faced and was gone... and, I was now officially late, so I couldn't ask follow up questions.
The brief incident had me thinking for hours afterward though. Whether her reasons were time-centered, equipment based, due to personal job duties/requirements for travel, or something else, I have no way of truly knowing, but from past experiences of this sort, I would guess that it's one (or possibly more) of two reasons. The first is likely that she believes it will take longer to ride than to drive. This reasoning may or may not be justifiable. The second possibility based on previous encounters of this sort is that this woman, and others, believe riding is unsafe.

Despite the reality of seeing more people on bicycles, it's still considered an activity of leisure or sport by many, and viewed by far fewer as a realistic means of transportation. My city is just under 22 square miles with the majority of destinations in a radius much smaller than that number would indicate. Living pretty well at the center of the city means that getting anywhere within this distance is bikeable. Most destinations are within a few miles of home, and even if I lived on one side of town or the other, it would add only a couple of miles for most trips - and actually make some destinations even shorter.

When people tell me it "must be nice" to be able to ride, my response is generally that it is and that really most people can bike to many locations they frequent. With proper planning and time management (which I admit, the latter is not my strength), even biking into colder seasons is not impossible, and often is more enjoyable than being cooped up in a car. I'm not attempting to force riding upon anyone, but I do want people to understand that it's not a difficult decision or activity.

As the weather cools, I see fewer people on bikes on the roads, but it's still possible to enjoy riding. There are many choices for clothing layers from natural fibers to man-made, so finding suitable attire is not much of a challenge, and I have found that layers really are my friend as I frequently find I heat up quickly once on the move.

There are studded bicycle tires, internal hubs, and disc brakes - all of which make riding in wetter and colder weather a bit less stressful. But, even riding with derailleurs and caliper brakes doesn't make traveling by bike impossible in the coming months.
*Image found here
The most likely reason I've heard for individuals not to ride at any point in the year comes back to time. When I tell people that it really doesn't take any longer to ride than to drive, they often laugh or think that I must be some sort of speedster on a bike, which is definitely not the case. This reasoning comes up more often than any other though. For destinations within a few miles of home, the travel time is often quite comparable whether in a car or on a bike, and for those locations a bit farther out, planning a bit for the small time differential makes riding a much easier choice.

While it is understood that time is a commodity for everyone, I think that using time as reasoning for not riding is often flawed. For most of us, we base our lives on time. There is never enough of it. One of my favorite quotes from Henry David Thoreau states in summary that the cost of anything is the amount of life we exchange for it. So, virtually everything we do in a day costs us some amount of our life, and if a person believes there is not enough time already to do the things s/he must do in a day, it's no wonder so many think they do not have the time to ride to destinations.

However, when we re-work our minds a bit and realize that we are often saving ourselves a trip to a gym by riding or saving the costs of gasoline and repair to a car, maybe that few extra moments it may take to ride seem a little less costly in life? It may even mean that we're a bit less cranky when we arrive home to the people we likely want to be around for a greater portion of our time in life.
*Image found here
Another reason that has been relayed to me in regard to not wanting or being able to ride surrounds safety. The brief interaction I had with the woman discussed at the start was timely for me personally because I have been struggling some days with the idea of safety on a bicycle. Not the bicycle itself, but the reality of riding on the roads with very large, potentially lethal machines.

Among people I know who ride, there have been a higher number of - to put it politely I'll call them interactions - with motorists as of late. On top of these more personally-connected incidents, I've read entirely too many stories about cyclists who have been severely injured or killed due to motorist negligence. Then, to top it off, I read this article yesterday regarding vulnerable road users and was reminded just how little my life means if taken by a motorist driving carelessly.

I don't share that link to scare anyone away from riding at all, but simply to point out that we are fed information all the time that, if we allow it to, can take over our lives and control the decisions we make. I am absolutely not immune to this thinking either.

To illustrate this further, my trepidation has gone so far that I recently started penning my own epitaph. I know it sounds extreme (and morbid), and I don't normally live my life believing that I'm going to die at any given moment, but it's very difficult to read about so many severe injuries and deaths and not - at least on some level - think that I am going to be next. All it takes is one person doing something they shouldn't be doing and it could mean the end of all riding, and perhaps life, for me.

There comes a point though when I and anyone who is basing his/her decision on fear have to realize that not every driver is on the hunt to harm or scare people on bikes. If I allow the few to rule my life I will never be able to enjoy the mode of transportation - and sometimes form of sport - that I enjoy. If I allow the few to scare me off the roads because of their behavior, then they have won and I have most definitely lost. And, I don't like to lose (ask anyone who's ever played any sort of game with me).

Fear is a powerful thing. It can take hold of us and can be challenging to escape. Once the seeds are planted, keeping them from growing into something completely overwhelming can be challenging. If life is lived in fear, we would never leave our homes. In fact, we might never get out of bed. There are statistics and stories all around us to scare us into believing that almost anything we do could result in injury or death, and I for one do not wish to live a life in such a manner.

Not only did I stop writing my epitaph, but I completely deleted it. I took a moment and realized how ludicrous this activity really is/was. Yes, there is a possibility that someone could hit me today or tomorrow or next week while I'm riding, but as with any activity from getting in the shower to crossing the street, we take a certain level of risk every day just by living.

The odds show that driving a car is still far more likely to result in death than riding a bicycle and yet people continue to drive every day (according to the linked chart, 1 in 242 vs 1 in 4,838 lifetime odds), just as we continue to bathe and cross the street.

I refuse to live my life in fear, and part of not living in fear means that I will ride my bicycle as I always have and support legislators and legislation that promote additional bike infrastructure and education for both motorists and cyclists.

I am not likely to convince anyone that riding a bicycle is entirely possible if they haven't experienced it for themselves. To these folks I would say, give it a try. There's no harm in going for a short ride to meet up with a friend or to the grocery store to pick up that one item forgotten to make an evening meal. It may even be that you start out on a short local bike path or somewhere that feels a bit more protected. With bike lanes and multi-use paths growing nationally, I hope that it won't be long before anyone will be able to ride just about anywhere without even hitting a major street artery, if desired.

There's truly nothing superhero about riding a bicycle for transportation. It doesn't take any special skill (other than learning how to ride initially) and it is just a decision that is made to chose to ride rather than drive to a destination.

A person can ride faster if s/he desires and has the capability, or a rider can travel at slower speeds. Ultimately, both riders will reach their destination. There is no requirement for a special bike or anything out of the ordinary to make riding possible. All anyone has to do is make the choice and start turning the crank.

What reasons have you encountered with those who wish they could "choose to ride" a bicycle? Do you encourage others to try riding when they ask you about your bicycle or when asking how long it took you to arrive at a destination? Maybe you've helped someone start on his/her path to commuting or riding more regularly. Feel free to share in the comments.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


Lately, I have had a really tough time falling asleep. There is much swirling through my head (which is not at all unusual) and I just cannot seem to find a comfortable spot to plant myself to actually go to sleep. I've pretty well given up on even trying to force myself until well after midnight, so it gives me lots of time in the quiet with my thoughts.

Sometimes I read, attempt to watch an old television show I could act out myself from the sheer quantity of views to date, or research some bit or part we need to continue our house project renovations. More often than not though, I have used this time to simply let my mind wander to whatever it needs to work through, which frequently leans toward projects in need of completion or attempts to figure out how/why a situation has gone wrong.
In my lifetime, I have exchanged homes far too many times. I have often wished that the moves were to some exotic place or a location simply different from what I have known, but usually they have been transitions within a relatively short distance of the place previously called home. I have to admit though that there is a sense of comfort in choosing paths and destinations that are already well-known.

Don't get me wrong, nothing can replace the sensations and rush of new or unknown possibilities. Change absolutely has its place, and certainly comes with its benefits too.

With these moves though, sometimes a new space feels immediately comfortable and as though it always has been while others have taken much time to feel "right," and in the case of a few, never reached that point at all. It's not belongings or knickknacks that make it home to me - there tends to simply be a feeling of rightness or not. It's a bit of the intangible or unspoken. There is something that connects me to the place on another level, and it either exists or it doesn't. Sometimes, the this-is-my-home-feeling comes in time, but, at least generally speaking, there is usually some sense of that from the start or it never quite develops at all.

If you've ever moved into a new-to-you home and found yourself performing actions without thought, such as walking into a room and flipping on the light switch as a reflex rather than out of cognizant intention, or easily maneuvering from one side to another in the dark, these are the sort of happenings that seem to take place almost immediately in a house that feels like home. There is something - for lack of a better adjective at the moment - familiar, even in a not-so-well-known space.

As I lay thinking in bed one evening, with an exhausted dog snoring and stretched out across my legs, I realized that I have had similar findings in regard to bicycles. Now, granted it's not quite the same because a bicycle has to fit properly to begin with or it can become a nightmare to resolve any issues, but for me there is usually a sense from the start as to whether it has potential to work appropriately over the long term, or not.

I have had occasion to be lulled into bicycles that are pretty on the surface but are entirely wrong in practice. I've ignored the little voice telling me that something didn't fit in favor of looks on more than one occasion as well.

How is it then that I should decide if a bike will come to be one that is long standing and true or one that I simply have found favor with for a time? I believe sometimes changes in feel can be attributed to our bodies adapting and morphing a bit over time. From season to season, year to year, and sometimes even day to day, a bike that once seemed to fit like a glove can turn and become this beast I don't know at all. I find myself uncomfortable and fidgety, body parts feeling pain or aches that are not normally present, and it's as though a bike demon arrived in the night to foul up a perfectly good ride.

This, however, is often how I'm able to weed through those that are keepers and those that can move on. If, over time, that feeling of discomfort does not diminish and pain remains, I can fairly well say that the bicycle is not right for me. If the feeling is temporary though, I am able to chalk it up to those minor changes that happen in a body from day to day and resume the blissful relationship with my two-wheeled companion.

Of course, there are times when adaptations are needed to make a bicycle work, so please do not believe I am speaking in some mystical way or believing that a bicycle should arrive perfectly suited to my individual particularities. We are talking about a man-made item after all.

I do think in any bicycle I am always looking for that familiar sensation though. By no means would I want every bicycle to ride exactly the same (what would be the point in multiple bicycles then?), but I think there is a certain level of comfort and understanding when there is some (often intangible) quality that just feels right, intuitive really. Then, over time, I come to better understand whether it's the right fit for my body and needs.

As someone who actually enjoys change and experiencing the new, it's an odd realization to discover that some form of familiarity is very often how I've determined whether a bicycle works for my needs.

How do you decide if a bicycle is right for you? Do you depend on others' research? Do you look for that familiar quality as well? Do you go by some other sensation? Perhaps you perform adjustments and modifications until it's good enough or perhaps perfect? Do you work with what you have, even if the fit isn't quite right?  Perhaps there is some other method you use to know when a bike works and when it doesn't.

Monday, October 19, 2015

One-Quarter Mile at a Time: The 100 Miles of Nowhere Report

For those who prefer short rather than drawn out versions of stories, I will share just a brief summary here at the start of Sam's and my 100 Miles of Nowhere ride. If you are wondering whether or not we completed the 100 MoN ride the quick answer is no and yes (for the long answer, I apologize, you'll have to keep reading).

I have been told that donations have been dropped off and made online as well, and that was the important piece of the ride, so thank you to those who gave in whatever form you were able. I am so grateful to each of you for your generosity and I appreciate you supporting a community organization.

And now, for the longer version of our 100 MoN...

This all started off so innocently. We (Sam and I) read every year about Fat Cyclist's 100 Miles of Nowhere ride and fundraiser for Camp Kesem. We always talk briefly about signing up, but usually by the time we come to any sort of answer, the ride is sold out.

The beauty of the 100 MoN is that no one needs to travel away from home. Instead, we all get to set up our own race course and ultimately, if we are specific enough with our category, each individual will win his/her division. Really, it sounds like a race made for me because it is the only sort of race I will ever win on a bicycle.

This year, we were a little more on top of our registration, or I suppose I should say that others were not quite as quick with signing up, so it allowed us the opportunity to be a part of this event.

As I was signing the two of us up for the 100 MoN ride, I had an "aha" moment. Why not do our own fundraising ride for a local organization that can always use some assistance while we ride to support Camp Kesem? It made sense to me and to Sam, and so we came to the conclusion that we would ask for donations to be made to a local organization in support of this ride.

I was excited. Sam was excited. Local friends were... well, I think they thought we were a little nuts, but I'm pretty sure they've come to expect a bit of semi-bizarre behavior from the two of us and were, at least to our faces, supportive of the endeavor.

We knew we had to select a date because the "official" date of the ride is November 7 this year, and we are well aware that the combination of Colorado, decent weather, and the month of November is unpredictable at best. It may still be gorgeous and sunny and we'll be waiting for snow, or we could be presented with a foot of white stuff on the ground.

We also have an array of happenings between October and mid-November, making a weekend day very challenging to devote entirely to a 100 mile ride. The only date that was available was Sunday, October 11, and so that became the date we would ride our 100 MoN.

The physicality of the ride was also of great concern to me, though I was trying not to let it overwhelm me. While Sam has been busy year-long preparing for various endurance races and events, I have not. With multiple injuries at the beginning of the year my saddle time has been sub-par. Well, really it's been sub-sub-par, if I'm completely honest.

The last time I rode 100 miles in a day was over two years ago. The last time I rode over 50 miles was more than a year ago. My longest journey via bike this year was under 40 miles and even that had been several months. In fact, my total mileage in the saddle over this summer and early fall is less than I'd normally ride when we're still coming out of our snowy months in the spring.

With each passing day, I became more panicked. How was I supposed to ride 100 miles when my typical bike trip has been somewhere around 5 miles? It's like telling a person who's been running 1 mile a couple times a week that s/he is going to now run a 26.2 mile marathon tomorrow. The ridiculousness of it is staggering to me on this side of things. Why on earth would I ever think I could do this?

Sharing my doubts with others went without any sort of pity. Typical responses were, "Oh, you'll be fine," or "This is your thing...You'll enjoy it." Apparently, no one was feeling bad for me and the situation I'd put myself into - and I can't say I blame them.

In a typical riding year, it's true, this wouldn't have been a huge deal. Challenging, yes, but unattainable, no. However, when I haven't put the time in the saddle, it doesn't matter how easy or slow I pedal, it's pretty well impossible to get this sort of distance completed. In fact, going slower is part of the problem because it only extends the time on the bike.
Streets in red would be our "race course."
Streets in black had too much motorized traffic to be considered.
*Map from Google
We had (at the very last moment) finally decided which course we'd be riding. We selected the 1/4 mile stretch of 10 streets running parallel. I thought this would actually work out nicely because it would mean 10 miles on each of the 10 streets. The thought of riding one street repeatedly for 100 miles was more than I could handle, so this seemed to fulfill the "nowhere" requirement and it would hopefully keep us somewhat entertained.

Or so we thought.

It's amazing how each of these streets looks remarkably similar when ridden back and forth, up and down, for an hour or so a piece. It also turned out that our measurements were slightly off. I had thought that the streets were 0.2 miles in one direction and Sam thought they were 0.25 miles long. In reality, the distance was somewhere in the middle at about 0.22 with each run.

Rather than trying to count laps, we decided to simply reach the 10 mile goal on each street and move on to the next.

Riding did not get off to the best start... But, I should probably go back a bit in time to help fill in some gaps and to help further illustrate why I would be struggling just a few miles into our 100 mile adventure.

On Wednesday prior to the 100 MoN, I had missed my doctor's appointment/adjustment for my back. Well, I didn't miss it, but the doc was ill and unable to come to the office, so I figured it would be a good test to see how long I could go without an adjustment. I had already been experiencing some spasms and pain, but figured that at some point I'd have to stretch beyond my current level of comfort. I made an appointment for Monday (as I was assured he'd be back in the office by then), which I thought would be great as a follow up to our 100 MoN on Sunday.

Friday, I went to kickboxing. I don't normally go to classes on Fridays, but it was a special circumstance and while there, part of the workout was a set of chariot races. If you're unfamiliar with this exercise, a band (or in this case, our belts) is wrapped around a person's mid-section while another person holds the "reins" of the belt from behind. The front person then runs forward while the person holding the belt attempts to pull in the opposite direction, making it more challenging for the front person to move forward.

I love this exercise! It's exhausting and, if done properly, is a phenomenal workout. It's also how I triggered some severe pelvis/back issues earlier in the summer. It's important to note here that technically I had not been released by my doctor to do this particular exercise, but I've missed this particular workout so much that I just had to participate.

On Friday, I also discovered a painful saddle sore. As I was riding to kickboxing I thought that perhaps I was just sitting oddly on the saddle, but as it turns out I was very wrong. If you've never experienced these, count your lucky stars, and if you have, then you know the sort of thoughts that were running through my mind with a 100 mile ride looming on the horizon.

After Friday's chariot race session, I was feeling some pain, but nothing that I didn't think I'd overcome. However, on Saturday when Sam and I went for our normally-attended kickboxing class, we did chariot races again.

Now, I have to say, our instructors are great about working with injuries. I could very easily have opened my mouth and said I needed to sit this round out... but, I didn't.

Instead, I participated each round  - and there were many - (though I did ask my belt holder to take it easy on me) and at the end of class proclaimed to Sam, "I think I'm broken."

I wasn't exactly broken-broken, but I was definitely feeling the ramifications of my actions. Between the two days of pulling, I had managed to somehow mess up my heel/Achilles area on my right side as well. I limped my way through the day, and managed to sit through most of the wedding reception for friends we attended that same evening.

That night, the evening before our 100 MoN ride, our Labrador, who normally sleeps on her dog bed at the foot of our bed (or in the guest room, or on the living room sofa), decided that she wanted to sleep on top of me in our bed. Normally, she's a very restless sleeper and moves after only a few minutes, but on this night she had decided that I am the very best human pillow on the planet and she did not move all night long.

It was a long, long night.

When I woke, I was miserable. I don't think I'd slept much more than a couple of hours total and every part of my body felt mangled from the odd positions I'd laid in throughout the night.

I got up and Sam was already busy shuffling about the house. He's an early riser by nature, so he had been tuning bikes and preparing for the ride long before I was even considering leaving bed. I was cranky and not wanting to ride at all. "Are you sure you want to do this?" I questioned, half way hoping that he'd say we could skip it. But, I knew we were riding, whether I was up to it or not.

The start was crisp, an ideal autumn morning. The sun was shining bright, the bikes were ready to go, and I was trying to internally pump myself up to get through the next 10-12 hours.
I knew our pace would be slow. If we averaged 10 mph, I thought we should consider ourselves lucky. We were both on ill-suited bikes for speed, Sam on his single speed mountain bike and me on my touring bike weighing no less than 50 pounds (only a slight exaggeration - though I do love this bike, despite its weightiness).

Could we have selected different bikes? Yes. Should we have chosen different bikes? Probably. But, we were close to home, so if we wanted to exchange rides that would be pretty easy to accomplish.

We knew our course would be riding residential streets with a lot of motorized and pedestrian traffic running perpendicular to us. At each end, we'd have to remain observant for turning traffic. Had I the foresight to truly consider what this would entail, we may have selected another more suitable, less mentally taxing course.
As we started out, I could feel the strain in my heel while pedaling. I could also feel my lower back muscles pulling, which wasn't giving me great confidence. I knew I was going to have to work it out in order to make it to the end, so I tried to just put it out of my mind and enjoy the morning. I was also dealing with my saddle sore issue and trying to locate a comfortable spot to rest this tender spot, but that wasn't off to to the best start either.

Sam seemed to be struggling a bit as well. He was shaking out his hands, trying to work out apparent numbness. He also seemed unsettled on his position as he would wiggle about from time to time on the saddle.

It wasn't the ideal start, for either of us.

As we started at block 1 of our 10 block course, our pace was initially quite slow. I think we were both a bit tired and unsure of how much we should try to push our speed, but eventually we found a rhythm and traded out who was leading the way.
We marveled at how different this block of houses seemed from our own, despite the identical era, and discussed various front yard landscaping and how these ideas might work for our home as well. We took in the variety of Halloween decorations and wondered aloud whether we would see any Trick-or-Treaters this year in our new digs.

We chatted about current bikes, and potential future bikes, and spoke again about the possibility of selling off one of our vehicles.

By now, I was certain we were done with this block of our course.

Alas, we were approaching only the four mile mark, and I was positive there was no way I was making it to the end of our 100 MoN.

Just a half hour into the ride, we were pretty well out of things to say to each other. Instead, we hunkered down and plodded back and forth on our designated path, smiling at the people who watched us pacing in front of their yards. I have to be honest, I'm surprised not one word was said to us by anyone in the neighborhood regarding our pacing.

At 58 minutes in, we had reached the end of our first segment and I was happy to be moving on to see different sights and hear different sounds. I was actually feeling physically okay as well and was hopeful that I would see this ride to its completion.
To my dismay, the sights and sounds of block two were not at all dissimilar to block #1. There were some minor nuances that changed, but not enough to make for a new round of happy chatter between us for any length of time. Surprisingly though, there were different smells. While block one had filled the air with odors of frying sausage, block two wreaked of burning tires as though someone had set a pile of rubber ablaze and left it to burn for weeks. It was an odd and unexpected change in olfactory impressions.

By the end of segment #2, I was pretty beat up. My back was really hurting and my brain was not doing well with the monotony of our travels. We were 20 miles in and I knew I was desperately in need of relief from pain in all its forms.

I requested a brief break for a refill of water and a bathroom stop (I'd needed facilities from the time we started but decided to hope for "re-absorbtion" which didn't happen) after which we rode back out to start segment #3 of our course.

When we had initially discussed this course as a possibility, we failed to realize that not all of the street segments have the same elevation. The portion we'd tested was very slightly uphill one direction and a very slight descent in the other. However, several of the other streets are not the same. As it turned out, many of these start a fairly unexpected incline about half way up the path. It would have been of little consequence in every day riding, but when anticipating a reasonably flat course, it can be a bit of a shock as it's repeated over and over again.
After passing this several times, I had to take a photo. What exactly does "I Tomato Tommy" mean? Is this the answer here?
Each time we reached the climbing portion of the lap, my pace would slow. My lack of training was surely playing a part in all of this, despite my mental efforts to shuck off such a ridiculous idea.

Sam was shaking his hands more and more in attempt to find relief from the numbness, but he was doing well, as would've been expected.

I find that one of two things happens to me during repetitious events. I either tune everything out and go into a kind of meditative state until I reach the end, or I focus on everything that is hurting until I can no longer stand to press on.

Unfortunately for me, this particular ride found me facing the latter reality.

As I struggled to pedal back and forth on block #3, I asked Sam if we could take a 15-20 minute break and then head back out. He agreed and after finishing 30 miles, we headed home for what was intended to be a brief stop.

At home once again, we decided that switching bikes might be a good idea. Sam opted for his single speed road bike and I hopped on my heavier road bike that was still significantly lighter than the touring bike.

We made it all of 20 feet down the road when I realized I wasn't going to survive this. I pulled off to the side while Sam stared at me, wondering why I'd suddenly halted. "I'm not going to make it," I announced after standing for a few seconds. "My back is killing me, my heel can barely turn with my foot on the pedals anymore. I don't know what to do. If we keep going, I can guarantee the best I'm going to do is one more block today - and that's if my back doesn't completely give out because it's nearly there as it is."

We stood in silence for a couple of minutes. I don't think Sam really knew what to say, or how or if he should push me to continue on. After a few of these quiet minutes I came to the understanding that my body was not going to allow me to ride this distance in my current condition.

In truth, I was quite upset by this realization, despite the fact that I'd wanted to skip out on this ride all together. I felt like a failure. I knew that Sam would push on no matter what, but I hated the fact that my body, in its current state, was not having this.

We turned around and went home.

I sat on our couch and pondered all of this. The reality of failure stings, and despite my hard-headedness or determination when necessary, I was frustrated that injuries and my own lack of training through the season was creating this reality.

Also stirring in my head was the thought that I now had to explain this to others. How would I relay what had taken place to those who were expecting us to finish? I know most are understanding about injuries, but I had signed myself up for this and should be able to see it through.

For several hours I tried to talk it out. I relived my failures with bikes and physical aspirations over the last couple of years and beat myself up internally pretty badly. It's hard not to do so when just two short years ago this would not have seemed like such a monumental task. I went to bed that evening feeling defeated and as though I let others and myself down.
That could easily have been the end of our 100 MoN story, but it isn't.

The next morning I woke up with a thought. There had been no rule stating that the 100 MoN had to all be completed in a single day. In fact, there was no rule that stated the ride had to be 100 miles at all, but in the spirit of the race, I believe that many want to see the 100 miles completed in a single day. That wasn't happening for me, but maybe I could still make the 100 miles happen if I spread it out over several days.

I had made a commitment to complete this ride and even if I couldn't get it done in one day, I would finish what I'd started, one way or another.

Sam wouldn't be able to join me for this portion because of work, but it didn't mean I couldn't go on my own and complete this.
Start of day 2's ride
I decided to take it on the way that I would usually ride. Instead of getting all the long-ride bike gear on, I'd just wear what I would normally wear on a bike to get around town. I'd take along the iPod, and try to just enjoy my surroundings too, which would hopefully help the time pass a bit more easily.

On Monday, I took about an hour and went and rode one more street and 10 more miles of our 100 MoN.
My saddle sore was particularly painful this day and that 10 miles was all I could manage, but Tuesday I woke up feeling slightly more energized and in less pain, so I went to work completing 25 more miles and 2.5 more segments/streets.
Some of these roads are quite horrible to ride, I have to say. It came to be that on some of the streets it felt rougher than riding on some mountain trails. And if you don't believe me, you can watch the nauseatingly bouncy video below (the return trip is far rougher than the out trip) that I took of one of my up and back laps on one such street. Apologies in advance for the background noise of me sniffling/clearing my throat and the creaking of the bike that day.

Day four was set to be a busy day for me with quite a few things to get done. It didn't help that my back was acting up and my saddle sore seemed to be growing by the minute, so I planned to do as much as I could, but knew I wouldn't be out long.

What I hadn't anticipated was the fact that the three streets I would be riding actually have a stop sign in the middle of each lap. I don't know why this hadn't occurred to me prior to the ride, but once crossing over to the other side of the route, the street layout changes slightly and the cross traffic becomes the through traffic while the up and down traffic has the stop sign.

I wasn't entirely sure how to deal with this. Stopping every lap would be a huge time disadvantage, but I also couldn't run through the sign - for many reasons. There was a fair amount of cross traffic coming through and I could quickly see that I would be stopping completely each time I came through. Yes, it is a stop sign and I should be stopping anyway (and for the record, I do stop at stop signs), but I was trying to figure out a way to follow the law and not have an inconvenience repeated over and over again.
As I tried to figure this out, I decided I would do a lap in the park that is right next to the street I'd started riding. It's a small park, but there is a path running through it, so I thought perhaps I could substitute this route for the road.

I quickly learned otherwise. There were far too many tight turns that would require me to stop and dismount. Additionally, there were several small children playing in the park (and that is its purpose, so I had no issue with this) making for an inconvenient short lap. I decided to go back to the road I'd been riding and ride half laps and then I'd cross over and do the other side of the street.

My path that was 0.22 miles was now 0.10 miles. It grew dizzying very quickly.

To make matters worse, an unmarked police car had set up shop on the street I was riding and he was keeping a very close eye on me. I knew I wasn't doing anything wrong, but I have to admit it must've appeared terribly suspicious to see this person riding her bike in circles on half a block, round and round, back and forth.
Eventually, my nervousness got the better of me and I opted to head home. After only 10 miles, I called it quits and figured I'd also likely need another plan to finish out the 100 MoN ride because these last few streets would be the death of me if I had to stop every 0.10 miles.

Twenty-five more miles to finish this ride up. Where would I ride? I figured I could go back through the streets I'd already been down, but some of them were so rough that I wasn't sure I wanted to do that again. It's one thing to ride them not knowing what's coming, but quite another to know what I was in store for before I even arrived.

I also pondered the idea of using our alternate route selection as the finishing route. With a four mile one way trip, those 25 miles would go much faster than they would on these short street segments.

There was also the possibility of selecting an entirely different place to finish up the 100 MoN, but where and what?
Ever wonder what it looks like on a GPS report to go round and round in the same spot? This is it! :)
When I woke on Day 5, I had made a decision: I was going to re-ride the streets we'd already been riding. It was the simplest choice and while there would be rough spots, at least there was an element of familiarity.

On this day, I was not at all excited about riding. In fact, I considered not riding at all, but the other part of me wanted to end this - to know that I had completed the 100 miles, even if it wasn't being done in the manner I'd anticipated.

Something strange happened though as I started riding. Actually, it wasn't at all strange when I think about it because once on a bike, I find that my mood generally does improve. As I started riding, I felt happy. I was hurting from all the aforementioned issues, but I was content.

I went back to the starting street of our 100 MoN ride and went to work. I had made a mental plan knowing that there were now 7 possible streets for me to ride without meeting up with a stop sign in the middle. I had 25 miles to travel which meant I could travel 6 of the streets for four miles and the last one for a mile.

As I started riding the first street though, something interesting took place. You'll recall I mentioned that one of two things happens to me during repetitive events? Well, this time I found myself in a trance-like state, focusing more on ideas and less aware of physical pain. I truly lost myself in thought.

Before I knew it, I had surpassed the four mile mark and was at about mile 6. The decision was made at that point to change the distribution a bit and ride 10 miles on the first street and then split the remaining 15 miles into 3 mile segments on 5 of the remaining 6 streets.

However, once again I experienced this meditative sort of mindset and missed the 10 mile mark. I then decided 15 miles would be the point of departure and I'd split the remaining 10 miles into two-mile rounds on 5 remaining streets.

This time, I tried to remain aware of mileage so that I didn't miss the end, but I have to admit it was sad to leave this first block and move on. This short distance had felt happy and I had found a rhythm. I probably should've just completed the ride there, but I'd set up this plan to hit all the remaining streets and so I moved on.

As expected, the remaining mileage passed pretty quickly - at least mentally. Riding only 2 miles each block seemed like nothing after doing repeats for longer distances.

It was a strange feeling at the end of all of this. It was really rather uneventful on the whole, but it almost felt as though I was saying goodbye to a friend. I'd grown used to many of the sights, sounds and smells on each of the streets and there was something rather comforting in the familiarity I'd come to know.

Sure, I had favorites along the way and some that I'd rather not ride again - at least in repetitious loops - but they each had their own sort of personality, despite being constructed by the same builder multiple decades ago. Time has given each block its own individuality and I was just beginning to appreciate each for these qualities.
The end left me with some amount of contentment, knowing that while I hadn't pedaled in the manner I'd anticipated, I had at least completed the mileage I'd committed to riding. In total, 101.1 miles was covered and it took five days to complete the course. I likely had and will have the most drawn out 100 MoN course and probably the slowest speeds, but that just means I surely clinched my category for a top podium spot, right?

Sam still has plans to complete the 100 MoN as well. Finding the time to do so is a bit more challenging, but he'll get it done. I may even end up riding it with him too.

Did you or will you ride your own 100 MoN course - whatever distance you selected? Always interested to hear how others will do or did pedal on their own course. Please do share. And again, thank you to those who donated and are continuing to give. I cannot detail my gratitude enough to each of you for your kindness.

Monday, October 12, 2015

RME Battle the Bear

Way back in the early part of the year, Sam had been looking for local(ish) races as training for participation in the Leadville Trail 100 MTB. Because he knew at the end of summer last year that he'd be entering Leadville again this year, he was trying to get a jump on some rides that might help. He came across the Rocky Mountain Endurance series and the Battle the Bear race that was scheduled for spring time, but just as he was preparing to sign up we received a lot of rain which flooded and muddied local trails.

At that point, organizers decided to cancel or postpone the ride (depending on what became of weather and ground conditions). When Sam realized it had been rescheduled for early October, he decided to go for it, even though it wouldn't be training for Leadville as he'd originally hoped. Instead, it would act as kind of season closer, of sorts.

I had assumed that he'd go alone to the race because (at least compared to other endurance races he's done) this one is fairly short distance-wise, and only about an hour and a half from home. Additionally, it's a lap race, so he'd be coming back around to aid every 10 miles, so I kind of figured I'd just be a useless body standing around for no real reason.

But, he requested my presence, so I ended up standing at the start/finish line watching riders come around each lap. The announcer was actually fairly entertaining, so that helped with keeping the watchers somewhat energized, and there wasn't too large a crowd riding so it was pretty easy to spot specific riders as they came through.

Rather than boring you with my stories of self-entertainment while waiting for Sam, I figured it would probably be more entertaining to hear his side of matters [Hint: I do a lot of jumping jacks when it's cold to keep warm or I attempt to lure strangers into conversation when it's not so cold], so here is his take on another new-to-him endurance ride.

Why do I do these random end-of-season things?

I had originally planned to participate in the RME series Battle the Bear race in May, but it had been rained out. My mom found and reminded me that they'd rescheduled for October 4, and I reluctantly registered for the event - and then quickly forgot about it.
The weather and a small portion of the course
Battle the Bear was supposed to be the second race in the RME series of 4 races. It was originally a 6-lap, 60-mile race with about 800 feet of climbing each lap; however, they ended up shortening it due to the change of schedule to a 5-lap, 50-mile race.

The week prior I hadn't tapered or really rested. I was viewing this event as a season closer and an opportunity to test out my "new geared" bike, and to get it dialed in just the way I wanted.

The park was a good venue that was clean with nice people running the show, but it was pretty quiet. There wasn't the buzzing that has been typical around the Leadville series I've been more involved with riding.

We arrived plenty early. [G.E.'s note: Much to my dismay - both because I missed out on sleep and I don't do well standing around for too long a time.] I checked in, got my designation and my AGE marked on my left calf. This was a strange thing to me. I don't really want to know the age of everyone because then I KNOW that I'm competing against them directly.

It was cool outside and very overcast, and it would stay this way all day. [G.E.'s note: It was very cold, I'd say. Maybe not for Colorado winter, but certainly compared to the weather we'd been having.]

An hour passed and it was time to get setup and ready to ride with the Endurance group. [G.E.'s note: This particular series has different categories and ride lengths that starts with the Endurance group, then the XC group, Appetizer, and finally juniors with each division riding fewer miles on the course.] The Endurance group started with the single speeds, the pros, and then in age group waves starting with the youngest and heading to the oldest. I'm getting older for these races, so I waited a bit to get going, although they did start each group fairly close together with all groups headed out in under 15 minutes from the start.
The pros starting their first lap
I didn't think that I would be caught in such a fast event. Whoa, did they start and maintain quick speeds. I spent the entire first lap getting passed over and over again, and I couldn't keep my eyes off the "calf markings," and realizing how many were passing me. The majority of the course was comprised of single track with a small amount of wooded area, a stretch of sand, a public park, a dirt path on the side of the road, two water crossings and three climbs - one very small one, one steep and short, and one reasonably long and steep climb right toward the end of the laps.
Lap 1
I'm dying. I'm convinced of it. I found myself caught up chasing a group. I have no idea why I do this, but it seems to be consistent whether riding or running. I nearly blew out my lungs the first half of lap one. The first half felt like a gradual climb until the half way point, after which there's some up and down. At about mile 7.5 there's a 1.5 mile climb that is 4%+ grade, and in between everything were many, many goat heads, some sandy points and a water crossing in the last half-mile stretch of the course that continued to get deeper throughout the race.

At the end of this lap, I was not feeling well, but I stuck to my plan and didn't stop to re-fuel as I came around to start lap two. I had all the GU I needed and I was sipping my water/energy drink mix while riding, so G.E.'s attempt to hand off a fresh bottle went unrewarded as I went on to the second lap. [G.E.'s note: I think I'm getting better at the hand-off though - even if you don't need/want it.]

Lap 2
Someway, somehow, I actually felt good. Everyone who was going to pass me had gone by and I was with racers going similar speeds and who would likely have similar finish times. One in particular was stationed about 50 yards in front of me for most of the race. I would refer to him as my "pee buddy." We'd actually had a conversation at the porta-john prior to the race start, hence the nickname. And I wonder why I don't have friends. Anyway, the lap was going well.

I felt good and I was putting up consistent speeds and starting to get used to where everything was on the course.

What I am not used to riding is a suspension fork. Normally I ride with a rigid fork on my single speed and I found that the ride felt squirrely the entire time with the added cushion. I'm considering dropping the squish because it didn't make my hands feel much better.

At the end of lap two, I stopped briefly, didn't say much, [G.E.'s note: Nor would I expect you to - you're racing!] swigged the rest of my bottle and swapped for a fresh one.
Lap 3
So, I'm feeling pretty good, chasing "pee buddy," and maneuvering better as each lap goes by. At this point, I could anticipate what was coming next, how to handle it and so on. It was actually kind of nice and I was thinking that I wish the race were a bit longer.

I had not flatted like many others had (as I would hear later) [G.E.'s note: The announcer had made several comments about the course having a ton of goat heads and stated that a few who were expected to win ended up dealing with flats because of these darn thorns.], the bike was doing great, and I had grown somewhat used to the squishy front end.

As the lap wrapped up, I was getting tired, but feeling positive with just two laps to go.

Lap 4
Half way through this lap, I started to get the I-don't-want-to-do-this-anymore feeling. I was starting to drag (not bonk - I actually never bonked). It was just the reality of realizing that there was still 15 miles to go and it's all going to look the same as what I've just ridden.

This time, chasing him up the big climb, at mile 7.5 I caught "pee buddy." He had tapped out while climbing and just pulled over.

Sadly, by this point I was being lapped by guys with the "P" written on their calves, and the demoralizing part of the race was back. Once or twice I pulled over to just allow the pros to pass on climbs. Yes, it slowed me down a bit, but I didn't care because I knew I wasn't going to come close to winning with such a swiftly moving group. [G.E.s note: They were a really fast moving group! The professionals were actually finishing before many had even completed their third lap.]

Lap four was coming to an end, and I was tired. But, at least there was only one lap left. I stopped briefly one more time to re-load water and I was off for the final round.
Lap 5
I happen to hear the announcer talking about the woman riding through the lap with me, who is a local Cross champ. I decided I would chase her and that would probably put me in a pretty good position to finish.

She was fast, but not crazy fast. Through the first four miles of the final lap, I stuck within 40 yards of her.... and then, we came to the small first water crossing.

There was a slower rider coming up. The Cross racer was prepared and passed the slower rider on the inside of the mud hole, but I wasn't close enough to make it by. So, the slower rider proceeded to sit in front of me for the next half mile so that I couldn't get around.

Finally, he bonked out, but it was too late at mile five for me to catch my rabbit.

I pushed hard up the last climbs and felt decent ascending up the final climb at mile 7.5. As I started to head down the last descent, I took a peek at my front tire. I was getting my first flat on a mountain bike in three years! I was not happy. At this point, I was hoping it would be a slow enough leak to get me through the last mile of the race. But, as I descended, things were not looking good.

With about a half mile left in the race, I had to stop and make some sort of fix. Using my CO2 cartridge seemed like the quickest fix because it would take a bit of time to swap the tube or patch it on the race course and I was almost finished. I still probably killed about three minutes here, but I was back in business.

I rolled through the now three-foot deep water crossing and right into the finish... and for some reason, kept pedaling. [G.E.'s note: It was rather amusing because the announcer said, "Dude! You're done. You can stop pedaling now!" I think Sam was just getting his second wind and was ready to go for another lap. :)] The announcer made a comment about stopping, but I'm not sure why I kept going.
The Finish
04:06:XX was my finish time. It was pretty fast given my recent history, lack of training, and so on, though certainly not anywhere close to finishing with the fastest riders. I averaged over 12 mph and got my first MTB flat in quite awhile.

It was a fun day. It didn't have the enthusiasm of the Leadville series, and people were less prone to chit-chat, but perhaps that was because it was a "make-up" race and the day had been super gloomy throughout?

I would consider doing this one again, and possibly the whole series of races next year. The registration costs were reasonable, it was a distance that is easily traveled from home the morning of the race, and it was pretty fun.

Maybe I'll even be fast someday!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A Bicycle Highway

Just a quick reminder about the upcoming 100 Miles of Nowhere, and more importantly a reminder to get your donations in (be they cash, goods, or your time volunteering). Donations have been coming in, but I want you to know there's still time.
*Image found here
Online monetary donations to the OUR Center can be made here
Clothing/Household items can be dropped off at 50 E. Rogers Rd
Food donations are taken in at 250 3rd Ave
Cash donations/gift certificates are received at 303 Atwood St
Child care items may be dropped at 501 5th Ave --*Please note they cannot accept any toys, but they can accept cash donations at this address as well

(All of these locations makes it easy to see why the new center being built is definitely needed)

As for our 100 Miles of Nowhere ride itself, it's slated for Sunday, October 11, but has a small chance of getting postponed to the weekend following due to some circumstances that may affect our abilities that particular day (not weather, surprisingly - as it's supposed to be one of the warmest/sunniest days locally).

Whatever happens, the ride is taking place and if you'd like to do your own, feel free to complete it on any day that makes sense for you. If you don't want to participate in the ride, please still take a moment to donate. Information is available via the links above (in case you missed them), or donate to your own local cause that you believe is in need -- either way, please let me know about your donation as I'm attempting to keep a tally of all the donations being made.

Okay, enough about that for now.

One other reminder, in case you've yet to be made aware, Coffeeneuring is officially under way. If you missed the first weekend, never fear, there is still time to participate. In quick summary, your challenge is simply to ride to seven different locations for coffee (or other bikey-type beverage). If you'd like the official rules and a more detailed explanation, you can find that here.
This may be one of my favorite photos thus far with Coffeeneuring.

I myself am not drinking coffee during the challenge after a failed experiment with just a very small amount while my brother-currently-living-in-Australia was visiting a few weeks ago. I swear, there must be higher concentrations of caffeine in coffee because it did not go well for me (I was jittery for a good 24 hours after only about 1/4 of my 10 oz cup). However, I am still riding along and will figure out a suitable beverage at each stop (hopefully something beyond water, which was the choice at our stop over the weekend).

A digression regarding my intolerance to caffeine (because I can't help myself).

When I was in college (the first time), I had two jobs and was going to school full time. To make matters worse, I was dating a guy who lived over 300 miles from my location. One weekend, I only had to work one of my jobs and as I was leaving work on Sunday made the decision to drive up and see him. Because I had about 15 hours to get there, see him, and turn around and come home, I was struggling to stay awake on my return drive home.

So, I did what seemed reasonable at the time and pulled off to get some coffee at a 7-Eleven/Quick-mart type of store. While there, I decided to also pick up some caffeine pills for an added boost to get me back in time. I read the directions, took one capsule and got on the road.

As I was driving, I continued to feel overly sleepy, so I took another. About 10 minutes later, I still wasn't feeling anything, so I took two more. And, because yours truly isn't the brightest person on the planet, then popped another for good measure (you know, because they "weren't working").

About 30 minutes later, I thought I was going to die. My heart was pounding out my chest and I didn't seem to be able to blink. As I continued down the road, things got worse. I started sweating profusely and then got the chills so bad that no amount of heat seemed to help. I was convinced that I was not going to make it back home alive.

As I pulled into the parking lot at work and went to my desk, my supervisor immediately took notice of my state of being and asked me what had happened (thankfully, she was not the judgmental sort, but rather more of a concerned mother type). I explained as best I could because at this point I must've sounded drunk as I couldn't form sentences very well. She offered to take me to the hospital (I didn't think that was necessary - or probably more that I was embarrassed and didn't want to explain what I'd done to myself), so instead I went home, drank about a gallon of water and attempted to exercise the caffeine out of my body.

I swore that I would never over-indulge in coffee or caffeine again after that because it pretty well scared me (almost literally) to death.

Prior to that incident, I used to drink a fair amount of coffee, and while it helped keep me awake on my overnight shifts, I'd never experienced anything like this over-caffeinated experience. After that incident, I've had great difficulty with caffeine, particularly from coffee for some reason.

End of digression.

There's been some recent chatter regarding the removal of a safe bike lane in Boulder. Here's one of the recent tweets about the removal:
It's difficult to hear, read, or experience the removal of a safer bike lane, and particularly with this one as it's 1) coming from Boulder, a community that I often ride through or to as a destination, and 2) because Boulder is known for its bike-friendliness. There are definitely some not-so-pleased cyclists in the area, and I'm not thrilled either.

I am trying to be someone who attempts to see both sides of the matter. The reason for the removal, or at least the stated reason for the removal, is that motorists have not appreciated losing a portion of their traveling lanes on a heavily utilized roadway. It likely adds to the issue that this is an election year for local reps... but, I won't get into the politics of all of that.

Instead, what I'd rather focus on is an addition of fantastic bikeways.

I had reason to travel down to the south Boulder/north Denver area recently and took notice of the soon-to-be-completed path that will connect Boulder to Denver via an 18-mile bike path.

This path has been in the works for some time and has been somewhat useable for about a year now (to my understanding), but I was so excited to see that it is nearing completion. I've been aware of the plan for quite awhile, but to see it coming to fruition was something of a treat!

Currently, there are about 11 miles completed, with the remainder scheduled for completion in 2016. I am excited about the connectedness taking place with this path, and while it's been stated that likely no one would use this to commute via bike from Boulder to Denver (or vice versa), I can see it becoming a possibility as the region continues to grow and motorized traffic becomes more of an issue.

This seems as though it could be almost labeled a bicycle highway, as it travels almost exactly (there are a few diversions along the way) the route of the motorized traffic along US 36. I've yet to personally pedal the route, but it's on my list of things to do, and I love that it creates a far more direct path from one region to another allowing for quicker and more efficient travel between cities.

What's going on in your area? Any news regarding bike paths or improvements? What changes would you like to see to the pathways you travel by bike?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

100 Miles of Nowhere: Some Clarification, and Your Help with Route Selection

Part of the reason I wanted to do our own version of giving within the confines of Fat Cyclist's 100 Miles of Nowhere is that the last few months have caused me to lose some faith in humanity. I've had days during which I have truly believed that there is no one to count on when things get rough. There have also been (at least what seems to me) a larger number of horrific acts taking place across the world and I can't help but feel entirely helpless. This simply seems like an opportunity to do some small bit to help somewhere in some small way.

With that, a couple of items have been pointed out to me by some of you that I wanted to clarify or modify regarding the upcoming 100 Miles of Nowhere, so here we go.

The first bit that has elicited a small amount of confusion is about the ride itself. Even though Fat Cyclist is doing an event that asks those who sign up to ride 100 miles of his/her own, that was not our intended purpose. We simply wanted to have an opportunity to not only aid an organization that is important to Fatty's family (by our household signing up for his ride), but to also give to one of our local organizations while riding this event.

In other words, we will be using Fatty's 100 MoN as an opportunity to give to our community as well. Those who choose to donate are in no way required to do their own 100 mile ride to nowhere.

That said, if you would like to complete your own ride (either on the date we'll be riding or on a day that works for you), please feel free to do so. In fact, we'd be thrilled to know that others are riding along side us in their own cities! If you do ride your own 100 MoN, please let us know. It would be great to hear other stories from those around the country (world?) that are doing a ride of their own as well.

The point of clarification: If you donate, you do not have to ride your own 100 mile ride.

The second point I'd like to adjust is the actual donation recipient. It has been pointed out that some would like to donate, but would in some cases prefer to give to their own local organizations. During this time of year, there are so many requests for funds that it makes it challenging to parcel out to everyone and each request. With that said, I would still love for readers to donate to the OUR Center, but I completely understand those who'd like to help out some other organization instead.

Our thought from the start was simply to have an opportunity to give, and while I really do want to get funds to the OUR Center, I also have the ability to work with local companies and people to help raise funds for this cause. If you would rather donate to an organization you hold dear, that is all perfectly acceptable in my book as well.

If you've already donated to the OUR Center, thank you! Please don't feel as though it was a waste as this organization can definitely use the assistance and I know your donation will be put to good use. We simply wanted to offer an alternative as a few people have made similar comments/requests via email.

Sometimes money itself is too much of a strain on finances this time of year as well, so I wanted to say that I think donation of goods (food, clothing, furniture, etc) or a donation of time helping an organization is just as acceptable - and sometimes needed even more. So, if that is how you are able to give, please do, and I'd still love for you to let me know.

The point of modification: Feel free to donate to any organization of your choosing (be it cash, goods, or service), but please still send an email to let me know as I'd love to keep a tally of what is being donated.

Whether you choose to do your own 100 Miles of Nowhere ride or not, I hope that you will donate. As pointed out prior, any small amount is beneficial, and whether you give to our local selection or your own organization of choice, small amounts do add up.

Okay, now that those issues have been addressed ( and, of course, if you have other thoughts that need clarification, please feel free to let me know), I will move on to the actual date of our ride and ask you for some assistance with route selection.

Our intention is to ride our 100 MoN on Sunday, October 11. It was pretty much the only weekend day we could work out to devote entirely to a 100 mile ride (and believe me, it will be an all day event for us - mostly because of my lack of training) that didn't take us into (potentially) snowy day territory. So, In just about two weeks, we will be riding our route of choice. If for some reason the weather is just too horrible, we'll pick an alternate date, but things thus far are looking fairly good.

Speaking of the route, Sam and I have debated what/where we would like to travel for the ride. Initially, Sam wanted to find a location to simply circle round and round until we reach 100 miles. My objection to this is that we'd have to turn and ride the opposite direction at some point as I think we'd grow weary (and our tires would wear unevenly) if we just circled in the same direction for a very short distance.

The real problem with this is that any place we'd choose has stop signs or signals involved which would mean that we couldn't ever get to a point of picking up speed and we'd be contending with motorized traffic at every turn.

I myself am trying to avoid any real climbing because I am already aware that riding 100 miles in my current state is going to be a challenge all its own without adding in the extra demands of climbing.

Ultimately, we've narrowed our choices down to two possibilities and we were hoping for some input from you. What would you do, why would you choose one over the other, etc?

The first option:
*Image from Google Maps
Our multi-use path has been torn up for a couple of years now since local flooding took place. The city has worked to rebuild, but it's still in a state of disrepair and has many disconnected spots. This seemed like a good option to choose because we could simply travel back and forth on the trail until we reach 100 miles. Unfortunately, the longest segment we can create continuously is about 4 miles long. Which means we'll be traveling back and forth a number of times in order to reach 100 miles (which, by definition, is sort of the point of 100 miles of nowhere, I suppose).

What we like about this option is that there are many resources along the way if we get thirsty, hungry, tired, need facilities, etc. The route has some very small rolling hill sections, but is fairly flat. In addition, we'd have almost no contact with motorized traffic, and we're guessing, due to the time of year, there won't be many people on the trail at all, making it up to us how fast we travel. We know it still won't be fast (again, because of me), but at least it provides an opportunity to stretch out a bit before turning around.

There isn't a whole lot of down side to this option, except that one direction is pretty much a very, very slight descent while the other direction will be a very, very slight climb. Another potential downfall is that much of this route is open to the elements, and it often gets windy through the straightest portions of this route, so we could very well end up dealing with some unwanted challenges.

The second option:
*Image from Google maps w/modification
For our second choice, we thought about how ridiculous a route we could really make if we set our minds to it. Our neighborhood is set up in such a way that there are two blocks we can travel without meeting a stop sign (and a bunch of motorized traffic) with 10 separate streets set up with this same two block section (the street that isn't blued out has some pretty heavy traffic, so we'd avoid this one).

Initially, we considered simply riding up and down the same block until we reached 100 miles, but then decided that we'd likely prefer a little bit of a change. With this option, we would travel an up and back route on each of these two block sections that run approximately 0.2 miles. If we rode each of the 10 blocks 10 miles, we'd end up at our 100 mile goal. Of course, that ten miles is going to add up to somewhere around 50 trips up and down each block.

What we like about this option is that it's pretty well out our front door and it's about as flat as any route could possibly be. It also makes it super easy to get home if we need a break, food, hydration, and so on. We like that it seems entirely ridiculous and if our neighbors don't already think we're insane, they will after this. I, personally, also like the fact that it would be really easy to switch out bikes if I become too uncomfortable and need a position change with a different bike. Knowing that I'm not trained for it, this seems like a good option.

One down side of this route is monotony. If we thought the 4 mile route would get dull, this will be the epitome of boring and routine.  Another potential challenge is dealing with local traffic. While these are side streets, some of them have a decent amount of traffic to contend with and traveling back and forth looking for cars and kids playing outside may not be ideal.  But, on the alternate side of things, these very short segments seem ideal for a 100 Miles of Nowhere challenge.

Which route would you choose for a 100 Miles of Nowhere ride?

A) Option 1: Short multi-use trail path
B) Option 2: Short, repetitive segments
Poll Maker

If you were choosing between these two option, which one would you select? Why? Feel free to leave additional comments or if you're short on time, make your selection in the poll. We'll let you know the decision soon, or we may just go with popular opinion. And, of course, please don't forget to donate to the OUR Center, or to your organization of choice, and then let me know about it.