Category Archives: Cycling

On being a mediocre middle-aged athlete

The other day CFL and I were looking at the calendar and thinking about what else we’d like to accomplish this year before the rainy season begins in earnest. He mentioned a couple of hikes that he still wanted to do. I reminded him that at the beginning of the year we’d agreed to do a metric century (100 kilometers or 62 miles) bike ride in honor of CFL’s 60+ years of age.

We’d picked out a group bike ride that we wanted to do: the Chuckanut Century in Bellingham on September 14. But then I had to go and break my arm, which put a serious crimp in my cycling and running plans for this year. After I was finally cleared to ride again in July, we thought long and hard about that century, but by then we had a date conflict with another event.

It was looking like the metric century just wasn’t going to happen this year. Autumn arrived quite dramatically; high temperatures dropped precipitously exactly at the time of the equinox. We’ve had nearly half an inch of misty rain over the past week. Still, I watched the weather forecast and found a small window of opportunity. On Friday morning I casually suggested to CFL that we go for a bike ride on Saturday. What would you think, I smoothly added, if we were to get up early, take our time, and ride to the end of the Olympic Discovery Trail and back? How about if we throw in an extra three miles somewhere along the way and make it a 62 mile day?

Our longest ride to date had been 43 miles. We were talking about going almost 50% further than that! Yet I was reasonably confident that we could do it, assuming that we’d take our time and take breaks along the way.

It was a perfect day for a bike ride. It was sunny but cool, about 50 degrees, when we started out at 9:00 AM. It never got warmer than about 65. There was no wind — hence no annoying head wind all the way home. The trees were beginning to turn colors in earnest. In many places there were leaves already down on the pavement, which made giant swishy sounds as we rode through them.

At the end of the trail my GPS watch read 29.25 miles. We continued on a quiet road until that road ended at the busy highway at exactly 30 miles. We turned around at that point and stopped soon after to eat our lunch of mixed nuts, dried apricots, and Clif Bars.

On the way back we stopped at a local diner for milkshakes. We figured we’d burned at least a thousand calories by then and the shakes tasted really good.

We picked up the pace in the final few miles because we’d promised ourselves dinner out at our local gastropub. I was smelling and tasting the beer in my mind as I pedaled! I didn’t even mind the extra 2+ miles we rode along the downtown waterfront just to get our total mileage to the right number.

At the end we were tired but we mostly felt elated. We’d done it! 62.3 miles. Our total elapsed time was a leisurely just over eight hours. Actual riding time was 6:11:52 — we’d managed to average ten miles per hour.

After dinner, at our second pub stop to be precise, we ran into some friends. They asked us what we’d done that day. We told them, and they were dumbfounded.

Later I posted a quick status on Facebook: Just finished a 62 mile bike ride. My first metric century!  Friends commented: Wow! Impressive! Congrats! I could never do that!

Wait a minute. What?

Well yes, you could. It’s not like I just got on my bike for the first time and rode it 62 miles. You have to work up to these things.

If I can do it, so can you. I look at photos of myself from six years ago. I was never fat, but I was quite flabby. I carried myself awkwardly. I looked old and world-weary.

Want proof?

Here I am on one of the happiest days of my life: on graduation morning from my PhD program.

I felt old. And I didn’t like that.

When I started running, I wasn’t merely slow. Most of the time I wasn’t even running! It took me months to work up to running a quarter of a mile without stopping to walk. I used to tell myself, Just run to that tree, to that shadow, okay now you can walk — and now run to that rock!

My feet hurt. My knees hurt. My hips hurt. But somehow, my brain liked it and was happy about doing it. So I kept going.

One step at a time.

I like myself much better this way!

I was 53 years old when I started to run. I was really, really slow. I’m still slow, but I’m not as slow as I used to be — and as I complete my sixth year as a runner I now have 3,456 miles of running experience behind me.

I have a daily activity streak (walking, running, cycling, and/or hiking some distance) that now stands at 636 days and 4,538 total miles.

If I keep running, I might have a shot at qualifying for Boston. The older I get, the slower the qualifying standard becomes. There is still a chance that those lines might someday cross for me. 4:40:00 at age 65? Yeah, that sounds doable.

As for cycling? I don’t know where I’m going with that, but I hope I’ll still be able to ride my bike for many years to come. CFL and I have talked about doing a multi-day ride someday. I’d love to tour around Scotland by bike.

I’m a mediocre middle-aged athlete and I feel healthier and more vibrantly alive than I ever have in my life.

I don’t mean to imply that I’m fearless or invincible. I’ve said those “I can’t” things just like you have:

  • I could never hike up that hill.
  • Run a whole mile? No way!
  • Break a 10 minute mile? Impossible!
  • Break a 9 minute mile? In my wildest dreams.
  • I’ll never run a marathon, no way not ever.
  • A bike? I’ll crash!!!!

But what I’ve learned is that a lot of seemingly impossible things become not merely possible but fun if you simply practice and tackle them one step at a time.

Now I’m going to step away from this computer and go for a walk. It’s sunny and brisk outside.

Won’t you join me? We’ll start out slowly. :-)

 

We hiked the PCT! Well, a tiny bit of it…

Recently CFL and I made yet another trip to southern Oregon. It was bittersweet in a sense. We’d made so many trips down that way to see my dad over the past two years, and now we were returning less than two weeks after he’d passed away. But we’d planned this trip nearly a year ago as a fun vacation, and we were determined to enjoy it.

Our first stop was at the other end of the state, in Portland, where we again rode the Providence Bridge Pedal. This year more than 18,000 cyclists participated in the various events. We did the 32-mile 10-bridge ride, which followed the exact same route as last year. Although the Bridge Pedal is a RIDE, not a RACE, I was pleased to complete the ride almost an hour sooner than last year! My new road bike is such a joy to ride compared to my heavy first bike. Of course, we still took time to stop and enjoy the view from atop the bridges.

 

In the background of the photo above you can see the new “Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People” now under construction. Given that CFL is a bridge-loving architect, we have studied and admired the progress of construction on each of our recent travels through Portland. Scheduled to open late next year, the bridge will carry light rail, streetcars, buses, bicycles, pedestrians, and emergency vehicles — but no private cars or trucks. Next year’s Bridge Pedal, the 20th annual ride, will feature a sneak preview crossing of this bridge. Eleven bridges! We’ll be there.

But what about the PCT, you ask?

After Portland we headed south for a quick visit with my stepmom. From there we went to Crater Lake where we camped for three nights.

As I’ve mentioned here before, the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) runs for nearly 2,700 miles from Mexico to Canada. Each year several hundred people “thru-hike” the entire trail. CFL has dreamed of doing this for many years, and he and his daughter are talking seriously about it for 2016. I haven’t yet caught the bug, but I was entirely game for day-hiking a small section of it this summer.

The 33-mile section of the PCT that passes through Crater Lake National Park is one of the highlights of the entire trail. Although the main PCT skirts around the caldera rim, most PCT hikers take an alternate trail that travels up to and along the rim.

On our first afternoon we walked out from the campground to the trailhead, which crosses the highway within Park boundaries but just before the west entrance gate. From there, we hiked to the junction with the alternate trail, and back. That was an 8-mile warmup that got us very excited about going further!

We got back to camp just in time to cook dinner — in the midst of a dramatic thunderstorm! I went to bed that night wet, cold, and unhappy, but still looking forward to hiking the next day.

Morning was beautiful!

We got an early start and again hiked north from camp. This time we hiked all the way up to the rim. It’s a climb of 1,100 feet in a bit over four miles.

As we continued to hike along the rim, the clouds increased and thunder began to rumble across the lake.

We kept a close eye on the sky. All the action seemed to be well south of us, so we hiked on. Our goal for the day was Watchman, a former fire lookout about six miles past and several hundred feet higher than the point where we’d reached the rim.

The climb up to Watchman was worth it. We could look down into Wizard Island’s mini-caldera.

It was cold up there! I was wearing several layers. I felt as lumpy as I looked!

As we were leaving Watchman I took note of the time and realized that we had a long ways still to hike! We walked part of the way back by road, which saved a bit of time.

We decided we’d try to catch the free shuttle from Rim Village back down to the campground. But when we got to the lodge at Rim Village, we were chagrined to learn that the last shuttle of the day had left more than two hours earlier. I was a a bit freaked out, but CFL proceeded to chat with other visitors at the lodge. It didn’t take long for him to meet a nice young man wearing a T shirt from a craft brewery in San Diego! CFL and “B” swapped growing-up-in-SD stories and we bought a couple rounds of beer. Soon we were all driving back to a restaurant near our campground for dinner. Mission accomplished! That was a 15-mile hiking day (not including the 7-mile return in “B’s” car).

On our third day we hiked the PCT south from the campground. While we’d seen a few thru-hikers traveling north with us on day two, this time we were hiking toward the thru-hikers. We met about 20 of them, and chatted with as many as we could. Everyone was excited to be approaching Crater Lake, with its campground, showers, laundry, store, post office, and BEER!

Although we didn’t have a view of the lake, this section of the trail was gorgeous. Lots of boulders and interesting trees!

 

We hiked all the way south to the Park boundary and back.

Including a few side trips, we hiked a total of 19.5 miles — our longest hike ever! We were the only day-hikers out there. We impressed some of the thru-hikers who hadn’t expected to see day-hikers so far from a trailhead.

So that was a total of nearly 43 miles of hiking over three days at Crater Lake. Looking at the map, we noticed that the entire Park is only about 25 miles from south to north. We’d hiked considerably further than that distance total, and our out-and-backs had encompassed the entire southern half of the Park. Not bad for a couple of middle-aged day-hikers.

But wait — there’s more to our PCT story! A couple of days later, on our way home, we stopped off at Mt. Hood to admire Timberline Lodge and hike a bit of that section of the trail.

We only had time to do a couple of miles, but it was great to see “our” trail again — and to share it with another thru-hiker or two.

Of course we did other things on this trip (beer tourism, anyone?) but that will have to wait for another post. Now, however, it’s time for me to go for a walk! Our activity streak is at 602 days and counting.

Fit and feral

As I was riding my bicycle today, it occurred to me that I do almost all of my running, and a fair percentage of my cycling and hiking, as a solo activity. CFL doesn’t run at all. We do try to bike and hike together, but often he’s working on a project with a deadline just as I’m itching to get out the door. This week, CFL is far away attending the funeral of a family member, so I’ve been busily entertaining myself with some big and audacious activities.

I make a practice of texting him after I’ve completed whatever it is I’m out there doing. He usually replies with something like, “Good job — you’re an animal!”

At first I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to be described as an animal, but at some point I decided to embrace the concept. I am an animal. A big part of the endorphin rush is that feeling of becoming attuned to my body and reveling in the things that my body can do.

Yesterday I ran 7+ miles of steep roads and muddy, even steeper trails. There is something magical about trail running that really brings out the animal in me. I bound along, sailing over rocks and roots. I giggle when I get my feet wet sloshing through mud puddles. My eyes and ears tune into the sights and sounds of the forest — this varied thrush, that raven, that mysterious swish of an unknown and unseen creature, those big tree limbs overhead creaking in the breeze. As I ran, I thought to myself: this is a feral activity — and I am feral.

When I run trails, I generally don’t set ambitious pace goals for myself. I’m out there to have fun and enjoy the beauties around me. Therefore I had no qualms about stopping to take a few photos. Tell me — would you want to hurry through places like these?

The little guy in the next photo is a rough-skinned newt. He’s cute, but don’t mess with him. He’s highly poisonous. The only creatures that can eat a rough-skinned newt and survive are some populations of garter snake, and only because they have evolved resistance to newt toxin. In response, the newts have become more and more toxic. It’s a classic case of co-evolution.

So that was yesterday. Today, however, putting aside the charms of stopping to view rough-skinned newts and other trail delights, I set out with an ambitious and very specific goal. I was going to ride my bike 17.5 miles east on the Olympic Discovery Trail, and then I was going to turn around and ride back. My longest bike ride to date had been the Portland Bridge Pedal last summer at 33 miles. I was going to beat that distance, and I was going to do it as quickly as possible.

Now, let’s think about this for a minute. I’m a female in my late 50s. My boyfriend is 1,200 miles away, literally graveside at the moment I’m starting my ride. My jumping-off point is a trailhead on a dead-end road about seven miles east of downtown. I’m going to ride on a “rails-to-trails” biking/running/walking trail that, for the most part, stays well away from well-traveled roads.

In the dozen years I’ve lived here, there has been only one attack on a lone female on the trail — she escaped successfully and the guy was caught. Still, I’ve seen all kinds of things on that trail. I’ve witnessed a moving domestic dispute: the girl bleeding, running after the guy and shouting, “Why did you hit me? Why are you leaving me?” I’ve watched the local police trying to lasso a runaway ram in a chase scene reminiscent of the Keystone Kops. Just a couple of weeks ago, I rescued a black Lab that some idiot had left chained in the back of a truck. The dog had jumped over the side and was hanging itself. I saved the dog’s life. So I’m not kidding when I say, you don’t know what you might encounter on the trail. It takes a certain amount of guts just to go out there alone.

I do it because I’m fit, I’m quick, I stay alert, and I will not let fear rule my life. I do it because I know I can do it.

So I got on my bike and off I went! On my eastbound leg I rode almost non-stop, pausing only at street crossings in Sequim. I flew along, barreling up and down the hills (aided a bit by what felt like a slight tail wind), all the way to my turnaround point at Sequim Bay State Park. Here I stopped to eat a small snack, text CFL, and take a couple of photos.

CFL replied to my text: “You go girl!” I texted  back: “I am so feral!”

Awash in endorphins, I started back. And immediately hit the headwind! For 17.5 miles I battled a 15 MPH headwind. I even dropped my hands down and fully utilized my drop handlebars in an effort to be more aerodynamic. It didn’t help all that much, but I felt ever so athletic.

I thought I’d get a break from the wind in the last couple of miles, which are hilly but heavily wooded. But it was windy there too. Windy and hilly. It took me about ten minutes longer to come all the way back than it had taken to go out, and I was really tired when I finished.

But I never, not even for one moment, doubted my ability to do it.

I rode my bike 35.23 miles solo, and I completed the ride in just a tick over 3 hours — my longest and fastest bike ride ever.

One of my favorite theories (don’t we all have a favorite theory?) is Albert Bandura’s theory of self-efficacy. Bandura defined self-efficacy as “one’s belief in one’s ability to succeed in specific situations.” It’s that sense of “I can” that empowers us when we dare to set big hairy audacious goals and then dare to achieve them. There’s a lot more to the theory, but that’s the gist. Because I have self-efficacy, I can decide to train for a marathon, and then go out and train for it, and then run it.

I occurred to me, as I was riding into the headwind today, that there is a connection between self-efficacy and experiencing myself as feral. Please bear with me for a couple hundred more words while I try to tease out this connection.

Last month I celebrated my second anniversary of becoming “post-corporate” — okay, I’ll say the word “retirement.” I truly feel that it’s taken all of two years to fully detox from corporate life.

When I finished my undergrad at UCLA lo these many years ago, I jumped into corporate life with the feeling that I would do great things and be amply rewarded for them. For the first few years, that was true. Then I married, had a child, took on a mortgage and a couple of car payments. Suddenly the stakes were higher — I needed my job and I couldn’t afford to screw up. I became cautious. I did whatever I had to do to get by and not much more than that. I lost the fire. I lost my sense of self-efficacy.

In the two years since I left the corporate world, I have had to re-learn how to relax. How to take deep abdominal breaths. How to sleep for as long as I need to sleep. How to fully live each day, wring it to exhaustion and deep satisfaction, and then let it go in anticipation of the next day. How to be feral.

I have let go of all that toxicity. I am no longer a garter snake facing down a rough-skinned newt and hoping I’m resistant enough to survive. I have come back to that more-innocent animal that I once must have been.

I have regained self-efficacy.

I am fit, I am feral, and I know that I can do the things I set out to do.

Oh, and I’m still a bit bashful about taking “selfies” — but here I am anyway.

I can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring!

It was too chilly!

To our great disappointment, we were unable to take part in the Chilly Hilly bike ride around Bainbridge Island yesterday. While the ride went off as scheduled for people who live nearby or in the Seattle area, the weather proved too daunting for us to venture forth from Port Angeles to get there.

We’re about 75 miles (an hour and 40 minutes driving time) northwest of Bainbridge. The weather forecast over that way yesterday was for temperatures in the mid 40s with occasional rain showers. It wouldn’t have been a fun bike ride, but it was probably doable.

When the alarm went off at 5:00 AM, it was snowing hard and our local forecast called for continuing snow — up to five inches of it — all day. Our part of the world was in the midst of its own little private winter! The snow wasn’t sticking at that early hour, but the thought of driving 75 miles on two-lane roads, then dealing with whatever the weather might turn out to be on Bainbridge — and then driving another 75 miles home! — was enough to cause me to turn off the alarm and go back to sleep.

The snow here did continue on and off all day. Everything gradually turned white. At most we had maybe 1/4″ on the ground. The real epicenter of the storm was northeast of us in Bellingham, where they got about a foot of snow.

I moped around the house for most of the day, then decided I might as well bundle up and go for a walk. At first CFL and I thought we’d walk down to the waterfront. We’d heard there were a hundred or more harbor seals there the other day, including several brand-new fuzzy babies! But we knew that if we walked downhill, the snow would probably turn to slushy rain at sea level. So we opted to walk uphill and enjoy the sight of snow falling through trees.

At some point I got the wacky idea of hiking the Peabody Creek trail. This is a low-country trail that begins just at the south end of town and winds about 3.5 miles upward along the creek to an elevation of about 1,100 feet.

The trail itself was muddy but clear of snow. Alongside the trail, the snow was sticking and creating beautiful designs in the fallen leaves and moss. Looking upwards, the dance of snowflakes among the big trees was simply magical.

I wish I could show you photos, but the snow falling on my iPhone caused the touch screen to shut down. I frantically stabbed at the virtual camera button several times before admitting defeat and putting the phone back in my pocket!

As we gained altitude, the trail itself began to turn white. There are several creek crossings over log bridges, and those bridges were becoming quite slippery. I didn’t want to risk hiking back down the way we’d come (it always seems more slippery going downhill), so we decided to take the first opportunity to exit the trail early and return by way of the nearby road.

Walking back down the road, we both realized that we’d forgotten to eat lunch and were starving. So we kept walking, all the way back down into town to our favorite pizza place. While we were there, the snow turned to rain, making for a less pleasant final leg of our walk.

We ended up walking almost nine miles and saw some beautiful, peaceful sights that helped me forget the disappointment of missing an event that I’d looked forward to for a long time.

Lesson learned! Next year, I won’t register for the Chilly Hilly ahead of time — I’ll wait for the weather forecast. Meanwhile, the activity streak remains intact.

It’s still raining, with more snow in the forecast for later this afternoon. I haven’t decided yet what I’ll do today. Bundle up and go out for a run, or just a walk? Or hit the treadmill?

So many ways to be slow and happy!

Staying active through the dead of winter

February can be tough sometimes. While the days are getting noticeably Ionger, winter still packs quite a punch. It can be difficult to motivate myself to get out there and stay active when the temperature is in the high 30s and the sky is gloomy with an intermittent drizzle. I confess, there are days when I just want to say “curse you, Activity Streak!” and snuggle more deeply into my favorite reading chair.

CFL and I recently made a quick trip down to southern Oregon to visit my dad. We contemplated bringing our bikes along, but then decided we’d just take it easy with long walks. We eagerly anticipated walking around downtown Eugene and Portland, stopping to take in a few local breweries and taprooms along the way.

All went as planned in Eugene, on the outbound leg of our trip. We enjoyed sharing flights of beers at Oakshire Brewing and Hop Valley Brewing, and had a great dinner at The Bier Stein, a brewpub boasting 24 taps and over 1,000 types of bottled beer.

Coming back northward toward Portland, however, we got caught up in heavy snow. We never had to put on chains, but trucks and cars pulling trailers did. At one point I-5 was blocked completely, with truckers stopped in the middle of the freeway to put on their chains. It took us two hours to drive five miles beyond the place that I took this photo.

By the time we reached Portland, we were in the midst of an ice storm. We crept into downtown, trying not to slide sideways on some of the same bridges that we’d pedaled over happily on our bikes during the Bridge Pedal last August.

We’d booked a room at the same motel we stayed at last summer. From this location it’s a quarter-mile walk to a light rail station that would take us directly to the middle of downtown. We were hungry; I eagerly anticipated a great dinner and an awesome IPA at Deschutes Brewery’s Portland brewpub.

The slightly frazzled reception desk clerk assured us that no matter how bad the weather, the light rail never shut down, thanks to super-duper new defrosting technology. So we bundled up and set off toward the train station.

It was 21 degrees with a 19 mile per hour wind. Freezing rain lashed our faces as we stumbled intrepidly to the station. We bought our round-trip passes and stood on the platform with a couple dozen other hardy souls. Then we began to hear rumblings: “We’ve been standing here for an hour.” The marquee display still indicated the expected arrival time for the next train, so we figured all those people had just lost track of time!

Then the marquee display changed. All trains in the system were shut down.

By this time we were very cold and very hungry. We trudged back. Earlier we’d heard that only one restaurant in the immediate area of the motel was open. It was a steakhouse, about two blocks past the motel. To get there, we had to walk into the blistering wind and navigate sidewalks and parking lots that were in the process of becoming encased in half an inch of ice.

By the time we arrived, my jacket was frozen stiff.

It turned out to be a steakhouse of the old-fashioned sort, meaning there was nothing for this vegetarian to eat but fries. The fries tasted a bit fishy but at that point I really didn’t care. Fortunately they did have some interesting beers on tap! 

The next morning our phones awoke us with an emergency alert imploring everyone in Portland not to go out if at all possible. We hung out at the motel until almost checkout time enjoying the view of the iced-over pool.

We then decided to make a run for it. Getting out of the parking lot was a bit scary but once we were on the freeway it was fine. By the time we were fifty miles into Washington, we had left most of the snow behind us.

Since then it’s rained every day here at home. I got my new bicycle on February 1 but so far I’ve only managed to ride it 25 miles, mostly right around the immediate neighborhood.

I surprised myself by buying a road bike. I didn’t think I wanted drop handlebars, but when I thought about what I enjoy doing on a bike — riding fast and riding long — a road bike became the obvious choice. I’m gradually getting used to the more aggressive riding posture. Mostly I keep my hands up top, but on a long flat stretch (which is scarce in my neighborhood) I can inch them down into the dropped position. Going downhill is still scary though! 

Fortunately, going uphill is much easier than it was on my old bike: that’s when I really notice that it weighs 19.5 pounds compared to my old bike at 33 pounds. I’m going to need that lightness and quick acceleration this coming Sunday when — whatever the weather — CFL and I will ride the Chilly Hilly. At 33 miles around Bainbridge Island with a total elevation gain of 2,675 feet, it will be my hilliest bike ride ever! I just wish I had more time between now and then to get comfortable on my new bike. 

But it does get tough to get out there  and feed the activity streak when the weather is lousy. This morning during a sunbreak I got out and ran along the waterfront. Thanks to all the rain, Ennis Creek was higher than I’ve ever seen it before.

During the last mile of my run, dark clouds loomed over the strait, the wind picked up, and the rain began. I caught this shot of sun, rain, and oncoming storm clouds during my after-run stretch time.

There was a flock of surf scoters in the water near the pier. I noticed with delight that the birds were forming boy/girl pairs. Spring is coming, and love is in the air!

I’d hoped to get out with my bike this afternoon, but the skies look inky again. My reading chair is calling me…

Tomorrow is another day! It will be activity streak day #414 to be precise. I don’t know yet how many miles I’ll be able to fit in, but one way or another I know I’ll drag myself out there and do something.

What about you? How is the dead of winter treating you? Any signs of spring yet where you are?

Days and miles — flying by!

Wow! Three weeks into the new year and I’m finally finding time to do a little blogging. I always take it as a good sign when I don’t have time to write — it means I’m out there squeezing every bit of life out of the hours and moments of each day.

Today marks 21 days into the new year, and I’ve already logged 168 miles. Wow! I’m averaging 8 miles a day! I don’t think I can maintain this pace indefinitely. On the other hand, once I start doing some long bike rides I’ll possibly move the average mileage even higher.

I did my traditional “January in Santa Barbara” trip recently. Unlike last year, which was very windy, the weather was perfect! I ran all four of the days I was there, including three simply wonderful barefoot runs on the beach. In past years I felt like a hero if I could manage a mile of barefoot running; this year I did beach runs of 2.5, 3.25, and 3.7 miles. I continue to be amazed at the things I can do that once were out of reach.

Views like this kept me inspired and coming back for more:

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Although this photo was taken across the street from the beach, an encounter with a female Acorn Woodpecker provided the other visual highlight of my time in Santa Barbara:

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It was a warm day and she was determined to drink, so she was patient with me while I took several shots.

During my time in Santa Barbara I managed to sneak in a couple of visits to Santa Barbara Brewing Company, where I sampled several of their excellent beers. What is a vacation without a little beer tourism?

Speaking of beer, CFL and I brewed an experimental batch recently. I created a simple SMASH (single malt and single hop) pale ale recipe. We divided the wort and pitched two different yeasts (American and Thames Valley). After several days, we further divided the proto-beer into six one-gallon jugs, which we dry-hopped (or not) in different ways. Don’t our little jugs look cute all bundled up and cozy in their matching towels?

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We bottled them a week ago and we’re anxiously awaiting side-by-side taste tests next week.

Tomorrow I’m going to see if I can ride my bike a little further up the hill than last time… I made it up Hurricane Ridge Road to mile 2 the other day, but I still have 15 more to go!

We’re busy! We’re happy! We’re not always so slow, but that’s okay. There is SO much to do and SO many miles yet to go!

A shiny new year deserves some big, bold plans

Happy New Year! As years go (and so they do, faster and faster it seems) 2013 was a rather great one. CFL’s and my casual decision last January 1 to “be more active” turned into a 365-day activity streak that is still going strong as we begin 2014.

CFL’s approach to it was rather casual, but he never missed a day — even if it meant setting out on the 2.1 mile uphill/downhill neighborhood “lap” at 11:45 PM.  Me? Of course I kept a spreadsheet, which now allows me to regale you with some numbers that still boggle my mind.

In 2013 I completed:

  • 1,001.14     run miles (including 2 half marathons, a full, & a 10K)
  •    307.47     bike miles (including 33 miles with 15,000+ others)
  •    134.73     hike miles
  •    720.73     walk miles

     2,164.07     total miles

Oh, and I drove just over 11,000 miles — much of which was long-distance driving to and from events (bike rides, concerts, brewfests, and the like) and trailheads.

We brewed 21 batches of beer, and made the leap from extract to all-grain brewing. We have a never-ending list of brewing equipment that we want to buy (a bigger brew kettle to prevent boilovers, a plate chiller to cool the wort more quickly, a couple of pumps to save CFL’s back, the list goes on and on).

So what’s in store for 2014?

I think I’ll run a little less, since I won’t be training for a full marathon and doing the super-long runs. I think 900 running miles is a good goal.

I plan to do a LOT more bike riding. I don’t have a specific mileage goal but I do have some events that CFL and I want to ride. I’ve got my eye on a new bike that I hope to buy before the end of January. I weighed my current bike and was astonished to learn that it weighs 33 pounds — no wonder I work so hard going uphill! The bike I’d like to buy will be at least 10 pounds lighter.

I’m looking at my calendar and figuring out how I’ll weave together training for and participating in multiple running and biking events throughout the year.

So far, the event schedule looks like this:

February 23: Bike Ride
The Chilly Hilly on February 23 — 33 miles around Bainbridge Island with 2,675 feet of elevation gain. I’ll need that new bike for those hills!

April 26: Trail Half Marathon
The Oat Run (Olympic Adventure Trail) — I’ll run this one and CFL may be a volunteer worker.

June 1: Half Marathon
North Olympic Discovery half marathon — this local race will be my fifth NODM and CFL’s first; he’s going to walk it.

August 3: Bike Ride
Ride the Hurricane is a 17-mile 5,000 foot climb up the Hurricane Ridge Road in Olympic National Park, followed by a rapid 17-mile descent! The road is closed to cars for the day. CFL has done this a few times. He tells me I may be ready to tackle it this summer. I think he’s nuts, but we’ll see…

August 10: Bike Ride
The Providence Bridge Pedal in Portland was so much fun last year that we’re going to do it again. Just us and over 15,000 other riders, riding over ten (count ‘em) Willamette River bridges on closed roads and freeways.

August 24: Bike Ride
The Tour de Victoria will be our first metric century — a 100K bike ride around downtown Victoria, BC and its surroundings.

October 12: Half/Full Marathon
We’ll be back in Victoria for this one. This is where I ran my marathon in 2013. For 2014 I plan to go back to the half (it will be my third Victoria half marathon), and CFL says he is going to walk the full marathon. We’ll see how he feels about that one when the time comes.

I’m sure other events will come up, and we’ll fit them in somehow. These are just the major ones that will require planning and preparation. We have several road trips planned as well, all of which will include some brewery tourism.

Yet even with all the training and traveling, we should have plenty of room on our calendars for hiking (I really need to do an overnight backpack trip this summer), walking around town, and hanging out with friends. And brewing, of course.

I’m guessing that we’ll end up doing at least 2,400 total miles this year. That seems like a worthy and achievable goal.

Right now, as I’m writing this, I’m thinking about an easy afternoon hike on a lowland forest trail. Although the sunsets are already noticeably later than two weeks ago, I’d better get out there while there is still plenty of daylight!

What’s on your calendar? What new goals have you set for yourself in 2014?

Slow and happy!

The Providence Bridge Pedal: Portland, Oregon

A week ago CFL and I rode the Providence Bridge Pedal in Portland, Oregon. I first learned about this ride last year when we happened to drive through Portland a couple of hours after the finish, but CFL has had it on his wish list for years.

With an estimated 18,000 riders, it’s billed as the third largest community bike ride in the world, behind first-place Montreal and then New York City.

The Portland ride essentially shuts down traffic through downtown Portland on a Sunday morning and early afternoon. The route encompasses all of the major bridges that cross the Willamette River — including two freeways. Yes, they close parts of freeways for this ride!!

There are several variations of the ride, ranging from a few miles and a couple of bridges, to 30+ miles and 10+ bridges.

I’m still rather new to cycling, having logged fewer than 200 miles in my adult life prior to this event. But CFL encourages me to dream big! In early June we registered for the 33-mile, 10-bridge ride.

I figured that two months to train would be enough. As the big day approached we did several easy rides of varying lengths on generally rolling trails and roads. I was terrified at first of riding on roads with cars whizzing by, but installing a rear view mirror on my handlebar helped. Our longest ride was 26.3 miles ten days before the event. I was confident that I could go the distance and that I could ride up the uphill approaches to each bridge. But I was very anxious about riding in close quarters with others. What if I did something stupid and caused a multi-bike accident?

On Sunday morning we were up very early to drive the ten miles from our motel to downtown Portland, find a place to park, unload the bikes, and ride slowly to join the masses at the starting line.

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From the starting line the route would take us immediately onto a ramp and up and over our first bridge. Although we were released in waves every few minutes, it was crowded and slow going over the bridge. I did my best to keep my balance while wobbling along at a mere 4 MPH while surrounded by other wobbly bikers. After a few minutes it dawned on me that I wasn’t the only nervous, inexperienced biker. We were all in this together and nobody wanted to crash! Gradually I began to build some confidence as I gained experience in not crashing.

Once we were over the top of the bridge, we all picked up speed and spread out. I was able to relax and enjoy the ride, the scenery, and the encouraging shouts from spectators and fellow riders.

This pattern of bottlenecks and spread-outs continued for the remaining nine bridges. In a few cases the crowd approaching a bridge was so dense that everyone got off and walked, but on most of the bridges there was room for both through riders and those who stopped to rest or take photographs. We mostly fell into the latter camp.

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The views were amazing!

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Some of the aid stations were set up in the middle of bridges, which encouraged people to take their time enjoying a snack while taking in the views. There were also bands on a couple of the bridges — it was all quite festive!

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On the freeway sections we were able to spread far apart and whiz down the long, gently curving roadway. I managed to dislodge my twitchy fingers from my brakes and actually got going more than 25 MPH a few times. My GPS watch recorded one sub-4-minute mile. I felt like I was flying! It’s hard to imagine that there are many humans alive who can run that fast.

The ninth bridge was the toughest. After nearly 20 miles of criss-crossing the Willamette in the center of downtown, we tackled a 10+ mile loop to the north, crossing the St. John Bridge before heading back toward downtown. This bridge ramp was very steep;  lots of people around me got off and walked but I managed to ride all the way to the top. And I was still smiling when I got off my bike for the photo opportunity!

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From there it became a freight train as we all seemed to pick up speed for the final push back to the 10th bridge and the finish line. I was finally fully relaxed and beginning to feel rather proud of myself. The ride finished only a block from where it began, but those 33 miles were transformational for me. I felt like a triumphant cyclist!

There was one last crush at the finish line. We all lined up with great anticipation for the ice cream bars and other snacks that awaited.

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The ride was not officially timed, but I timed us at a leisurely four and a half hours. That’s okay! I finished feeling strong and — most important — staying upright. No crashes by me or anyone around me!

CFL had a great time also. We vowed that we’d come back and do it again someday. Actually, we are already talking about coming back in 2014. It was that awesome.

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Of course, while we were in Portland we also visited a few brewpubs. We finished our ride day at the Deschutes Brewery Public House, where I enjoyed vegan mushroom shepherd’s pie paired with a delectable Black Butte XXV. Another Portland standout was the tiny Tugboat Brewing’s amazing Chernobyl Imperial Stout. Our Oregon trip also included beer tasting stops in Astoria and Eugene. I think we hit about a dozen brewpubs and taprooms overall. And we haven’t scratched the surface of all that Portland has to offer!

Yes, I think we’ll be back next year.

How about you?

Ride the Hurricane!

The other day some people took a fun little bike ride in our part of the world.

There were 522 registered riders in the fourth annual Ride the Hurricane. This event — a fun ride rather than a race — is organized by our local Chamber of Commerce with the involvement of the staff at Olympic National Park. For six hours on a Sunday morning, the road from downtown Port Angeles into the Park and up to Hurricane Ridge is closed to automobiles, transformed into a superhighway for bicycles.

This was CFL’s third time in this event. He usually rides up to the Ridge solo at least one other time during the summer, but this was his first trip up this year. The ride is 36 miles roundtrip, with an elevation gain of nearly 5,000 feet on the way up and the equivalent (very rapid) elevation loss on the way down.

New for this year was a spectator shuttle, which turned the event from a personal cycling challenge into an adventure that loved ones could share. I watched CFL start out on his ride, then I got on the shuttle. We drove very carefully up the Hurricane Ridge road, mostly in the left lane, passing hundreds of panting cyclists. That is a steep road! I waved at CFL as we passed him at about mile 6.

At the top, most people positioned themselves at the finish line so they could cheer for each arriving cyclist. However, I knew that CFL would take about four hours to reach the top — which gave me nearly two hours for hiking!

CFL and I have been so busy with many other things that we haven’t had many opportunities for high country hiking. Some of the best wildflowers are already gone. However, I was hopeful as I set out along the Klahhane Ridge Trail.

It didn’t take me long to realize that I had given myself an extraordinary opportunity. Because the road up to the Ridge was closed that morning, there was almost no one on the mountain. The trail runs along the ridge high above the road, which gave me occasional birds-eye glimpses of cyclists far below. Now and then I’d hear a shout from the road, but most of the time all I heard was birds and bugs. 

I was on that trail all by myself. This struck me as slightly weird and a bit disconcerting at first. But as I continued to walk I lost myself in the wildflowers and mountain views, and I relaxed.

I hiked out for just over two miles, then somewhat reluctantly started back. The return trip provided the best angles for viewing the cyclists on the road. These photos were taken with a zoom lens.

During the last half mile of my hike I was looking down at the parking lot where the cyclists were arriving.

I hurried back from that point to make sure I wouldn’t miss CFL’s arrival! Sure enough, I’d only been at the finish line for about ten minutes when he pedaled around the final curve.

He was a little tired (understandably!) but recovered quickly and was his usual smiling self moments later for his official portrait.

It was simply a wonderful day for both of us! An awesome bike ride, a perfect hike, and many hours soaking up the midsummer sun.

Then we relaxed and had a couple of home brews!

Our activity streak: Mid-year update

Today is the 190th day of 2013 — just past the halfway point of the year. Although I haven’t yet moved far from my computer this morning, as of last night I’d run, walked, hiked, and biked a total of 972 miles. I’ll hit 1,000 miles in less than a week from now.

Neither CFL nor I have missed a single day of human-powered forward motion. I have dutifully logged my every mile in one of my famous spreadsheets. CFL is a bit more casual about his record keeping so I can’t report his actual mileage, but his daily activity streak is intact.

We’ve walked through airports and around shopping malls to keep the streak intact. On road trips, we’ve driven out of our way to find interesting small towns where we can sample the local craft brew and then walk around downtown for an hour or so before getting back in the car.

So far I have run 464 miles, walked 401 miles, hiked 91 miles and ridden my bike 16 miles.

I really need to ramp up the biking miles! Next month we are going to Portland to ride the Bridge Pedal — a 33-mile ride over ten of Portland’s Willamette River bridges. I’m still not comfortable riding my bike on a public road, much less in close company with a few thousand other riders. I’m more nervous about running into another cyclist and causing both of us to fall, than I am about riding on a public road. As I understand it, the bridges themselves will be closed to auto traffic during the ride, but I’m not sure about the roads between the bridges.

It’s time to seriously increase the hiking miles as well. The mountain snow is almost gone, and I want this to be the year when I finally do an overnight backpacking trip.

And oh yes, the running miles are going to ramp up considerably as well, as I move into the serious weeks of training for my first full marathon. Within a week or two I plan to ease myself through the first big psychological barrier — running more than 13.1 miles (the half marathon distance) on one of my Sunday morning long slow runs.

I’ve discovered that if you spend enough hours outdoors, it’s possible to get a tan even in western Washington.

I’ve discovered that the home brew tastes even better when you’ve been out there earning it step by step!

Our friends have grown accustomed to seeing us together walking around downtown. These days I never drive anywhere within a radius of about three miles from home, unless I’m planning on bringing back a large load of groceries. We’ll be ready for the next gasoline panic — we’ll simply keep walking.

When we started this thing at the beginning of the year, I honestly didn’t think we would continue it for long. Now — barring serious injury or illness — I can’t imagine not being active every day. About a month ago I was moving some large plant pots around in the back yard and somehow managed to drop a concrete block on my foot. It was seriously bruised but not broken, so I walked… slowly… the same afternoon.

Today’s plans call for an easy walk downtown for the twice-monthly meeting of the Tuesday Night Beer Research Group. The group’s motto is “We drink to learn!”

Tomorrow I’ll hit the trail again for a 7 mile run. Then I think a high-altitude hike would go well, a bit later in the week. And another bike ride of course! The possibilities are endless.

Slow and happy — one step at a time!