Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Lonnie already mentioned this, but it is worth noting again because it's really a great event. The Hawkeye Bicycle Association's Swine Trek will take place on Saturday, June 21, beginning at 7:00 a.m. Pleasant Creek Recreation Area near Palo is the registration and starting point, and there are four distances to choose from. Bob and I rode the 50-mile ride last year and I was quite impressed by the organization. For RAGBRAI virgins, it's a good preview of an 'organized ride' (stops in small towns and more than a few of you on the road); for everyone it's a good opportunity for a longer, safer road ride. The registration form is at http://www.hawkeyebike.org/special_rides/Swine_Trek_2008.pdf

I'm slowly getting back into bike mode after running a half-marathon in early May. I've probably only logged about 50 miles so far, so I'm hoping to kick it into high gear soon (despite the disheartening news from Northtowne last night that they're at 2 weeks for tune-ups...).

Seems like I've been tied up on a lot of weekends, but perhaps those of us in the CR area can get together for a few evening or weekend rides in June. Looking forward to seeing you all!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Personal best

Now this won't seem like much to the speedsters among you, but I was surprised to have set personal bests for average speed my last two times out. Losing 44 pounds since January has undoubtedly helped, but I also notice a different approach to my biking. Instead of logging miles just for the sake of logging miles, I seem to be riding with a purpose. Not speed, necessarily, but I want to make sure that each ride is a workout.

Between May 21, 2005 and this past Saturday, I've ridden a bike on 185 days. Whether it was the 2+ mile round trip to work or the 85.5 mile day from Sheldon to Estherville (in the hail, as I recall) in 2005 or anything in between, the best speed I could muster was 13.7 mph in a six-mile ride on Sept. 24, 2005. (Obviously, I'm anal about recording my rides.) Typically, I've plodded along at 12 mph. Until Saturday, when I averaged 14 mph in a 24.7 mile ride home from Urbana along the Cedar Valley Trail. That record didn't last long as tonight, after mowing the lawn as a warm up, I averaged 15 mph on an 11.5 mile ride.

That 3 mph jump will save me more than an hour in the saddle each day of RAGBRAI. I also plan to take spinning classes leading up to RAGBRAI, which should make me faster yet (or, at least, make the hills less difficult).

I've always stressed that RAGBRAI isn't a race, and it's not. But I'm going to save a fortune on Chamois Butter and Gold Bond if I can cut my time in the saddle from 5-6 hours to 4-5, and so can you.

P.S. With 87 miles logged over the last 11 days, I'm now at 178 on the year. Last year, I didn't hit that mileage until July 4. In 2006, it wasn't until July 23, day 1 of RAGBRAI! In 2005, when I caught this bug, it took me until June 24 (although I didn't start until May 21). After three straight years of declining mileage (from 933 in 2005 to 633 in 2006 to 613 last year), 1,000 miles looks like a reasonable expectation.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Bike to work: turtles, trains and automobiles be damned

Today was the official "Bike to Work" day, but you'd hardly know it by the delays encountered on my noon ride along the Cedar River trail.

Even as gas prices jumped to $3.69/gallon locally, vehicular traffic seemed to be heavier than usual on a day that was perfect for riding a bike, walking, or most anything besides driving a car. After meeting up with Tom Hicks and Brian Farrell, we took our usual path to the trail -- only to be blocked by a slow-moving train. (In this case, by slow-moving I mean back and forth.)

We headed downtown to catch the trail there, battling winter-worn streets and residual sand. Downtown was where we encountered the most vehicular traffic -- and these drivers didn't seem the sort to share the road with cyclists. After taking the turn at the now-closed landfill, which was particularly ripe today, we were slowed again, this time by a turtle. A big turtle! I wished I had brought my camera at the time, but I'm just now realizing my cell phone has one. D'oh!

In addition to the usual encounters with geese, we passed a snake on the return to campus. No deer on this trip, but Tom told of a recent occurrence.

I support efforts to encourage a healthy and environmentally friendly alternative form of transportation. Hopefully as more people begin riding bikes something will be done about all the obstacles.

We had a good 15-mile ride, don't get me wrong. But I'm craving the open road. Tomorrow I'm planning to bike home from my son's baseball games in Vinton, about 30 miles away. As Hayden Fry said, "You have to scratch where it itches."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Bike to Work Week/Day this week!

Lonnie and I had the conversation last week that we thought "Bike to Work Week/Day" was sometime soon. I forgot about that until tonight and thought I'd look it up and pass it on to all of you. FYI, Bike to Work Week is officially this week and Bike to Work Day is this Friday, May 16th. (un)Fortunately, I live less than 100 yards from my office so as much as I'd like to ride to work, I think it would take me longer to get my bike out, roll it out of the building, park, and lock it than it would for me to walk.. I know Lonnie will be riding to work and we'll go on a noon ride...feel free to join us!

Bike to Work Week

Friday, May 9, 2008

100 miles in record time

So, how's your training going? I'm happy to say I'm ahead of pace, having surpassed 100 miles in the saddle today. Tom Hicks and I enjoyed a noon ride along the trail and had lunch at Jerseys. I'm thinking I shouldn't have to count the calories in the french fries they brought me since I ordered cottage cheese.

So, due largely to my Florida vacation and considerably less to the Iowa climate, I'm at 109 miles. Last year, before I wound up biking only five of the seven RAGBRAI legs, I didn't pass 100 miles until May 22. In 2006, the year of the cattle truck rescue, it was June 30. Back in 2005, when this obsession started, I bought my bike two weeks from now. On June 12 of that year, I set a personal best riding 13.4 miles to and from my son's baseball games to surpass the 100 mile mark.

Three years later the odometer reads 2,217 -- not counting 70 miles in Florida -- and I'm as fired up for RAGBRAI as I've ever been. Losing 40 pounds certainly helps. I really like the route. The jerseys are cool -- both the RAGBRAI and CoeBRAI versions. Most of all, I'm excited about the returning riders and anxious to give the newcomers an experience of a lifetime.

Training rides

In addition to our weekly Friday noon rides, which officially begin today, I wanted to call your attention to some locally organized events that can help prepare us for RAGBRAI.

One that I just discovered is Ben Murphy's Bike Ride for Preemies. In it's seventh year, this ride raises money for babies born premature. Scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, July 12, it offers a 20-mile bike ride that uses the beautiful Cedar Valley Trail from the New Shack Tavern to the Hawthorne Suites hotel and back. The cost is only $15, and you get a custom designed Ben's Ride T-shirt, water bottle, and other goodies.

There's also the annual Swine Trek on June 21 sponsored by the Hawkeye Bicycle Association. You have the option of a 25, 50 or 100 mile route beginning and ending at Pleasant Creek State Park near Palo. Registration is only $20 (before June 14) and includes fully stocked rest stops, a chicken dinner and other goodies. I rode Swine Trek last year, but suffered a mechanical breakdown.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

he's baaack...


I have experienced some technical difficulties with posting for a bit. Ergo, I've not responded to semi-trash talk from Doug, nor been posting photos of my new bike, yet. Weather here has been a factor in reducing my training time, so I'm not yet ready to tell Doug to "make my day". Indeed, I'd be currently reluctant to challenge Doug's grandmother to a race.

Thanks, Katie, for your nice words. We all look forward to riding with you again. Bringing the hubby? Nothing is more beautiful than a woman of power, and that's certainly you.

Separately, and back to 'my blogging habit': Stay tuned. I've already had issues with the *!@#%$ newfangled stems on these tubes. I got a tire jones of some sort. It's a bad, bad thing.

Yup, - you saw this coming, right? - I've already 'portaged' about six miles with this bike, from up a gravel trail last Friday to near home. (Sure, it's because I think myself invincible and didn't bring adequate equipment. I was just too excited about getting out there!) The shoulder bruises are starting to heal, the bike is clearly broken in (probably 50-60 miles total), and more is coming. Also, I did get a ride from a 20-something faintly stoner type, the last 2 miles home. He's going to crash a day or two of RAGBRAI, so maybe we'll all score some stuff, if we reconnect...

But, really - the important thing about all this is, on a daily basis: Can't you just hardly wait to get out? Isn't biking, for people who live in areas that have real seasons, just a sure sign of spring; a reminder of youthful days (or daze, as it were); the promise of weight loss and nice thighs; and more? Get out of your car, down off your horse, and ride!