Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Mark of a True Cyclist...In My Eyes

I saw pictures and even saw some people face plant in front of me without a helmet on group bike rides. At this point, it has not happened to me, but I knew that eventually it would happen. I felt kind of invincible on my hybrid bike with its big tires and ability to go from road to dirt without an issue. I felt somewhat safe. And then I got my road bike.

And then, I got clips. Their have been multiple blog posts and pictures and stories from people talking about their falls with the clips. In fact, it scared me to put them on, but I wanted to improve myself as a cyclist. With some advice, I bought the mountain bike clips to get me started so that I can easily get in and out of the clips if something went wrong. Well, in theory, it would.

So, I knew my day would come and unfortunately, it happened on a nice bike ride with the giant (my second or third ride ever on Cylo). He's now officially moved here and this was our first bike ride together in Houston. We have always biked in England, but not in Houston.

Since I have my first triathlon coming up very soon, I wanted to test out my suit on the bike. Now, I need to test it out running and swimming.

The giant and I just having a nice bike ride on a gorgeous day.
We wanted to do something easy, no more than seven miles. I opted out of dropping into Brays Bayou trail and just go around Hermann and Rice. I'm not sure why exactly. I guess it had to do with me totally forgetting about the 5-6 hour traffic. Stupid idea #1 of this bike trip. I stopped at a light and was about to push the button when I realized that I was not close. Of course, I was still clipped in and kind of found the pole before I went down on the cement block. That was a close call.

I decided to go a different way and into Rice University, which confused me. We got to an area with a back up of cars and I decided that we should go on the sidewalk to get around it. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. Stupid idea #2. Believe me, I paid for it. Then, the sidewalk ended and because I'm a complete moron, I forgot that I do not have a hybrid bike anymore. Stupid idea #3. Road bike is called road bike for a reason. Since it had been raining, the ground was soft like quicksand. It sucked my wheels in and down I went hard. Cylo landed on top of me slamming into my knee. I had no time to react or attempt to get out of my clips. It took awhile to even get up.

I dusted off my pride and body and got back on the bike, because that's what cyclists do. I limped a turn of the wheels and we were off...slowly...very slowly...painfully slowly (literally and metaphorically). There was too much traffic and blockages and turns causing us to make last minute changes. We stopped at the Farmer's Market to see if they had any produce we needed; they didn't and it hurt to walk. Plus, I was just ready to get home and ice my knee. So, we got back on our bikes and headed home.

It took a couple of days to really just stop hurting when I walked. A nice array of hues formed and is still there today. I learned my lessons a plenty. I'm only thankful that the fall wasn't as bad as it could have been or what I have heard from others. So, now I at least feel like I belong in the cyclist club with my ever so slightly story of falling.

Oh and the giant still bikes better than me even on an old 60s-70s model road bike that didn't even fit him. Stupid short legs of mine.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Maiden Ride on Cylo, My New Road Bike

I hear about these rides outside of the city, mostly in Chappell Hill, but I never go. Chappell Hill is called hill for a reason and I never thought I was ready for hills with the hybrid bike and especially not with the new guy in my life, Cylo. Then, I got an email about cycling in Brookshire from my friend Bob. Oh that's flat...I can do some flat. And I really wanted to get out there for a ride on Cylo. Elizabeth was in and I begged her nicely to pick me up since it is quite difficult to transport my bike in my car. Hey, I put gas in her car and I'm driving to Splash and Dash this Friday.

So, we made a plan to get up before the sunshine on a Sunday morning (6 a.m. departure time since it takes about an hour to get out there)...AGAIN. I put everything in an area where I could easily grab stuff in a rush, including laying out my clothes ahead of time. Thank God I just did the washing.

The group ride started at 7:30 a.m., but we thought we would start at 7 a.m. to beat the heat. However, we didn't get there at 7.

There were two parts to the ride. One part was out to Monaville and back from the parking area for 21.5 miles or you can add an extra loop as a second part for a total of 42.5 miles. The ride was sponsored by Bicycle World and had a van out there in case shit happened or you needed a ride back somewhere. And I needed the van. They also printed out maps for the ride with Wes' (the van guy) number.

Oh and wouldn't you know, I forgot my darn helmet. Thankfully, Bob had an extra one for me to use. Bob, Elizabeth and I rode out together since Bob knew where he was going. This was my first ride with Cylo since I bought him the previous Sunday, because I was sick all week after my bike ride. I dropped back fairly quick getting used to my bike and the new way to change gears. I wasn't too far behind and sometimes, I caught up to them. Cylo was faster, so much faster than my hybrid bike. My legs were burning and oh how my crotch/ass area hurt. I had to sit up off the seat a few lotta times. Eventually, Bob and Elizabeth left me, because I just couldn't hang with them speedwise. I lost them quickly on all of the hills. 

Then, my worst fears happened; I got my first flat tire, while alone. I freaked out. I have taken a bike maintenance class before, but I didn't get to do it myself and I don't learn just by watching somebody change their tire on a bike that doesn't look like my bike. Finally, someone came by and reminded me about the number on the map and I called Wes. Elizabeth called me to make sure I was okay and I told her to go on since Wes was there to help me. He showed me what to do (again, not letting me do it) with some tricks. He did let me put on the front wheel, which was helpful. He also put air in my other tire so I wouldn't get a second flat. It was scary, but I got through it with help.

I finally made it to Monaville for the stopping point and I just stayed there for about 20-30 minutes. I was able to go to the bathroom, get some water, eat a honey stinger waffle, and just contemplate my ride. I had no desire to continue on with the rest of the loop, but I knew Elizabeth and Bob kept going. So, I took my time and eventually met Shelly. We rode back together and it felt good to have someone there to ride with for the remaining 9 miles. Also, it was nice that I was the faster one. That rarely happens. We talked about sports and life and all the dead animals on the road. Thankfully, the weather was cool and the clouds just started to part for some pretty blue skies on the way back to the car.

On a side note, we were by Waller and I missed it.

We made it back to the car and I just chilled out reading my book (Game of Thrones...OMG! So, much is happening now towards the end of the book) waiting on Elizabeth. It was such a great ride even with the flat tire and heart stopping panic. I started to feel like a cyclist instead of just a social rider. It also felt good to get out of the city for a change of scenery and ride my new bike. I can't wait to do it again, although, I hear the van won't be out there again until next season. Sad face.

Things I learned on this bike ride:
  • When you hang your helmet on the bike so you won't forget it, remember to put it on the correct bike. I got home to find my helmet hanging on the hybrid bike, which is why I didn't see it at 5:50 a.m.
  • Thankfully, it didn't rain, but it was supposed to rain. I forgot ziplock bags again for my phone. Plus, it's just good for the sweat.
  • Watermelon is by far the best ever after biking treat. Elizabeth was a God send for having it.
  • Speaking of food, make sure to go shopping for bread before the bike ride. I put my PB&J on a corn tortilla and it wasn't good at all. And the gluten free bread Elizabeth had for her sammich was just not good.
  • I always air up my tires before every ride, which is why I haven't had a flat until now. I honestly didn't think it would need air. BIG MISTAKE! The biggest lesson I learned that day was it doesn't matter. Air up those tires anyways. I found out that my tires were so far below the psi they required and I didn't check that before I went out. I will never make that mistake again if I ever buy a new bike. I will continue to air up before each ride like I always do.
  • OMG, my ass, crotch, neck, and back hurt so bad on the new bike. I'm dreading my bike ride tonight for my bike fit appointment, because I'm still sore. I should have done an Epsom salt bath when I got home, but the Texans were playing.
  • Seriously need to get some new gloves. The new handles made my hands sore. I don't know why I can go into a bike shop and get everything I need to get, but not gloves. UGH!

I'm not sure when my next big ride will be, but I can't wait. And with Jim coming to join me next week, I will have a cycling partner that's also starting from my apartment with a bike rack capable car. YAY!


Thursday, September 4, 2014

20 Mile Bike Ride and a New Bike

One day, Elizabeth asked me about going on a bike ride. I agreed immediately even if it meant that I had to get up early on a Sunday. I could do it and I did.

We set our goal of 25 miles heading down the Brays Bayou to Terry Hershey Park. But if we could go for 30 miles, we totally would go for it. I realistically could do 20 miles and would be pushing myself to 25 miles. It's okay to have a crazy goal on the back burner though.

So, we set out with me in the lead. I immediately noticed the darkness surrounding my area. I made a statement that we need to watch out for storm possibilities, but had no desire to delay or cancel our bike ride. Since I'm not running right now, I needed another form of exercise besides swimming and working out at the gym (gyming?). If anything you will learn about living in Houston, a monsoon that looks like the Gods will come down upon us to flood out the city so that we can rebuild society could be happening on one side of your apartment building, while you will never feel a drop on the other side. And I'm not kidding. But you still need to keep an eye on what is going on around you stormwise (well and kidnappingwise, rapingwise, murderwise, stupidwise, etc.).

Let's just throw it out there...I'm slow. A great deal of this has to do with the fact that I have a hybrid bike, but I'm still slow anyways. I was on my way to getting faster in the bike last year, but lost my speed after surgery. I accept my slowness and move on with the ride. I only felt a little bad for Elizabeth being a faster rider stuck behind a slower one. So, she got to watch me. I learned a lot by the time I got to the bayou like my hand signals were incorrect. I rode when I was little all over my neighborhood, but do you think we used hand signals? Heck no. We didn't even wear helmets and rarely stopped. Currently, I ride with large groups or by myself. However, one time, I rode around my area at Thanksgiving with another person. Needless to say, I didn't know the correct hand signals and nobody corrected me until now. And I was glad for that, but I did get confused later on in the ride trying to remember which one to use.

I'm also used to just jumping on a sidewalk if I feel unsafe, because I'm by myself. One time, I messed up and went on the sidewalk without thinking about Elizabeth. I didn't do that again...not because she punished me for it, but because I realized it was not a smart or safe idea.

And then the monsoon hit...let me clarify, the first monsoon hit. I couldn't see much. It got windy; I was a little cold; I was definitely wet. We sought shelter in this gym area and then ventured out when it eased up a bit. Then, the next monsoon hit and then it dried up making it cool and beautiful. In fact, I noticed a rainbow painted into the cloud (wished I took a picture). We smelled donuts in the breeze; we said hello to everyone; we had gone the farthest that I have gone on this trail; I might make 30 miles. Then, the third monsoon hit and only looked to get worse. It was dark and the clouds were deep for miles. We decided to just turn around. We made it under 610 before we took another weather break.

This was the only time I felt comfortable enough to bring out my phone to snap some pictures.

The rain didn't stop, but it eased up enough for us to continue our bike ride home. To be honest, I was tired of the rain and just wanted to be home. Funny thing about this rain is that it hit us from the front in the one direction and then hit us from the front again in the opposite direction. WTH?! My shoes were flooded. My seat area was flooded. I eventually took off my glasses, because they were worthless to me at this point.

We finally made it home as a wet sloppy mess. We rode 20 miles through at least three monsoons in roughly 2 hours (according to Jim). I will take it since I mostly do 20 miles, while stopping for long periods of time for beer and tacos or elotes and more beer (not that there is anything wrong with that). And I learned a great deal of information just by riding with someone other than myself. For instance, bring plastic bags for your electronics. Thankfully, the rain always hit from the front.

Even with all the rain, I couldn't have asked for a better experience. Well, except for I got sick the next day and didn't feel better until well, today.

My floor after standing there for a minute. And no, my water didn't break.
During our talks, Elizabeth convinced me to go bike shopping on that day. We were just to go shopping (I swear), but I found a bike that fit me perfectly for rather inexpensive at Bicycle World in West U. I fell in love.

Meet Cylo, because he reminds me of a cylon. Thanks to Dave for coming up with the name. I haven't rode him yet due to sickness, but I'm hoping to get on him tonight. Oh yeah.

He's so sexy! He could sleep with you. He could be nice to you. He could kill you in multiple ways from multiple versions of the same looking clone. He is CYLO!!!

Elizabeth was nice enough to give me her old bike rack for two. Although, I need to find a better place to put it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

September Plank Challenge

August's challenge of 40 pull-ups/chin-ups assisted/unassisted didn't go so well. I did it for a week and that was it. I mean I did my normal set requested by my trainer at Workout Nirvana, but I never reached 40 again. I did attempt to try and pull myself up on a bar twice with no assistance; however, it didn't go so well. I just hung there like dead weight.

On a side note, my audition to American Ninja Warrior was quickly rejected.

I didn't know what I would do for this month or if I would do anything at all. Then, I got a post update from Dannii at Hungry Healthy Happy and it was like a light shined down upon the computer with angels singing Hallelujah. I got giddy with excitement, because I really enjoyed my July Plank Challenge and this is exactly what I needed. Plus, planks are excellent to build strength in your core to help with back problems (me), running (me), and everything else.

Then, I really read it. Oh crap. She wants us to get to a five minute plank at the end of the month. I'm not talking about five sets of one minute (like what I did). Nooooooo, that was chump change. She means one set of five minutes. Is this even possible? I couldn't even do 1:30 minute plank at the end of the month for my challenge, which was my goal. Hmmmm....what to do?! what to do?!

I decided to go for it. I sent Elizabeth a text that I'm doing this plank challenge and she crazily agreed. We are unsure if we can get to five minutes, but we certainly are going to try.

I made modifications to her chart (see below or check out Danni's post here with the original chart) since I'm already at a point where I do one minute planks a day. In fact, I do at least two sets of one minute planks a day usually one legged, because of my toe pain. So, I will spend the first week doing a one minute plank instead of a 20 or 30 second planks.

I'm not expecting everyone to do this like me, but it's a great start. If you are starting on your first plank, then check out Dannii's original chart to get you started and certainly work on staging your planks like the picture below.

Start out on these levels and work your way up (source image).
Do regular planks, side planks, reverse planks, and eventually get to one handed planks like this little guy.
Source image.
And then maybe plank with a friend.

Source image.
I think this is an awesome challenge and thanks to Dannii for hosting it. I started yesterday with two sets of one minute planks. I'm super excited to see what this challenge brings to me at the end of the month.