Saturday, December 12, 2009

South Beach, Miami

At the beginning of December, I spent a few days in South Beach with my friend Catherine. I had never been to Miami before and it was a fun trip. We flew down on a Wednesday morning and I came home Friday night.

We stayed at the Sagamore (The Art Hotel), on Collins. There were cool sculptures in the lobby, paintings and photographs hanging on the walls in the hallways and rooms, and the back stairwell was painted in a mural. There was a video garden out near the pool, featuring computer generated images. There was also beach access from the pool area.

After we checked in, we had a leisurely lunch at the Front Porch Cafe on Ocean Drive. Afterward, we walked along the beach path back to the hotel, changed into our swim suits and dove into the pool. It was heated and the temperature was just perfect. Later that evening we decided headed over to the Delano hotel and had a couple of drinks at the pool bar. They had lounging beds around the pool. It was a such a beautiful setting that paying $17 for a Mojito feel quite pleasurable. ;-)

For dinner we wandered over to the Shore Club for some Italian food from the restaurant Apo. It was delicious and we got a kick out of watching all the fashionistas come and go as we dined. As we left the hotel we passed a huge queue of folks waiting to get into a party in the garden. Later we found out that it was a private party for a gallery opening with attendees like Lance Armstrong, Shepherd Fairey, Dr. Dre and others.

We walked out to the beach and stumbled on a free concert featuring London artist Ebony Bones. They were really fun. The music was catchy and they put on a great show. Check them out on youtube.

The next day we walked down to the News Cafe for brunch, then walked along the beach path, and lounged around the hotel for a while. In the afternoon we rented beach cruisers and rode around Miami Beach for a couple of hours. The bikes were single speeds with coaster brakes. It took a little while to figure out how to stop without falling off... when you're used to freewheel backpedaling, it really takes a while before you can learn how to backpedal, brake and put a foot down all at once. I have to say, it really helped to employ cyclocross-style mounts and dismounts. It was good to have some forward momentum to get the pedals turning, and swinging a leg over, coasting and then stepping off worked a lot better than the other method of stopping.

We ended up riding out along the Venetian Causway and cruising around the little island neighborhoods. Many of the homes were decorated for Christmas - it seemed a little odd to us to have 80 degree weather and palm trees with holiday lights. I suppose it seems normal to the people who live there. It was definitely fun to see.

That night we had Cuban food for dinner. It was a really casual place and the food was simple. Unfortunately, other than fried plantains (yuck), we didn't have anything that seemed to be specifically Cuban. We had chicken and rice and beans. All very tasty, but not very different.

After dinner we took a swim in the pool. It felt so decadent to be swimming in the warm pool under the moonlight. The hotel had lovely soft robes for their guests, so even drying off seemed luxurious.

I was bummed to have to leave the next day. It was such a short trip, but definitely worth it. We brunched at the News Cafe again, then rode the bikes along the beach (in the sand) for a while before returning them. Then back to the room for packing and off to the airport.

For your enjoyment, I have made a list of the highlights, lowlights and oddities of the trip.

Highlights:
  • cruising South Beach on beach cruisers
  • swimming in the heated pool
  • stumbling on the Ebony Bones beach concert
  • decadent drinks at the Delano poolside
  • rubbing elbows (sort of) with celebrities
  • seeing postal carriers delivering mail by bicycle

Lowlights:
  • $17 Mojitos
  • a cockroach in the Cuban restaurant the size of a mini Clif Bar
  • non-working jacuzzi bathtub in the hotel room
  • obnoxious restaurant hostesses on Ocean Drive
  • complete lack of respect or rights of pedestrians and cyclists - the light would change, the walk signal would come on, and 3-4 cars (especially taxis) would charge through the intersection prepared to mow down anyone in their path - 9 times out of 10 you wouldn't be able to cross the street until AFTER the walk light started flashing red

Oddities:
  • while we were riding our bikes, we saw a black stretch limo equipped with a rooftop ski rack (where do they ski in Florida?)
  • walking down Collins, we saw a beautiful woman wearing a teeny white bikini and strappy sandals draped in shopping bags (she was nowhere near the beach and needless-to-say she stopped traffic)
  • while dining at the News Cafe, a dog came around to the tables carrying a bucket and begging for money (he was pretty successful, too!)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Very Late Canton Cup Race Report

I was really excited that Canton Cup was on Halloween this year. I love that race and it's always fun when people get into the spirit and race in costumes. Someday I'm going to get creative and give it a go myself. For the moment, fun & colorful stripey socks will be my contribution to my favorite sport. :-)

I carpooled with Leah, and we got there before the Mens 4 race with enough time for 3 preride laps. The course was a little different from the previous two years, mostly in the back section on the pavement in the woods, where the course went back onto dirt and over a log before continuing on the path.

The tiny barrier section was changed as well, happily, because it used to be super sketchy with the crazy downhill into a hairpin dismount. I was really pleased to discover the uphill section prior to that was either much easier or I am now much stronger (hopefully it's that) because there was no question that it was rideable.

Waiting for my race to start, chatting with friends and teammates, comparing socks and admiring costumes, I failed to pay enough attention when the officials called us to the line (perhaps I had been spoiled by G-Star and Providence's line-up by order of registration) and found myself in the back row. At the last minute I spotted a space in the 3rd row on the right side, went there, but then someone else followed me and stood to my right. This turned out to be unfortunate because when we started, I was effectively boxed in by people who were slower than me. I also failed to be in an appropriate gear (I really should practice starts - so important!) and when there was finally space to go into, I couldn't do it until I had shifted properly. Grrr.

For most of the first lap, I passed people (which is always fun), and luckily avoided the crazy crashes that were happening in the wooded asphalt section. I saw Guila on the ground with blood on her face, but she said she was ok, which was good or I might have been tempted to stop and help. I also passed Leah who was off her bike, but I wasn't sure if she had crashed or just had a mechanical.

I heard people cheering for me all over the course, which is always a bonus. When I crossed the start/finish line, I was shocked to see that we only had one lap to go - really? We only just got started.

On the second (and last) lap, I really wanted to catch up to the small group in front of me. I was going all out, but just couldn't raise my effort level enough to get to them. It didn't help that I must have been going a little too fast in one of the paved, slippery chicanes, and felt my front wheel start to slide out. I pulled up on the handlebars and shifted my weight enough to get the bike under control again, but it put me a little off my game, and made me slightly more cautious in the rest of the corners.

One of the MIT girls passed me just after the run-up when I boggled my remount, and I chased and drafted off her on the track, but lost her again in the barriers. Feeling slightly dejected, I wasn't exactly sprinting for my finish until I heard Cathy R. yelling at me that I better get going or someone was going to beat me to the line. No way! So I picked up the pace and managed to keep whoever it was behind me. I am really grateful to Cathy for telling me that because I didn't realize that it was happening. The race isn't over until it's over. Good thing to remember!

It was disappointing that we only raced two laps. I think that 30 minute races are too short as it is, but I was on the course for a mere 24 minutes! The leader finished in 22 minutes. There was a lot of time in between the fields - I don't understand why we couldn't have done a third lap. I suppose this may be a bit of sour grapes, because while I couldn't raise my game, I felt that I could have kept going at the same level for one more lap and that I might have gained 2-3 places if the race had been longer.

I wasn't very pleased with my race until someone told me that I ended up getting 18th place. With 37 finishers, this placed me in the top 50%. Yippee! This has been an elusive goal of mine for the past two years, yet I have achieved it in my last two races, which is a very sweet feeling.

All in all, I had fun, worked hard, learned some good lessons, and finished better than I thought. It was a good day with fun socks, great costumes, and good friends.

Here's my teammate Karin as a Yip Yip Martian.
It was my favorite costume of the day.
More photos of the race (by Geoff) at Flickr and Picassa.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Winter Vegetable Soup

I made a wonderfully delicious soup with some of our winter CSA vegetables. I wasn't sure what to do with radishes and a rutabaga, but the farm website had a recipe that included those plus carrots and butternut squash, all which we had gotten in the pickup this week. I didn't have all the ingredients so I modified it a little, adding some and ommiting others. It turned out really well, and I now think this is my favorite soup, pushing the Winter Barn Stew down to number two.

For anyone interested, here's my recipe:

4 cups vegetable stock/broth
1 large carrot
1 small parsnip
1 onion
1 cup daikon radish
1 cup rutabaga
2 cups butternut squash
1 can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup dried parsley
2T cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup water
1 tsp sesame oil
sea salt to taste

Peel squash and cut all veggies in bite-sized pieces. Sautee onions in 1 tsp sesame oil, add veggie stock/broth and bring to a boil. Add all vegetable pieces, beans, parsley and cornstarch mixture. Simmer 45 minutes, season with sea salt, and serve with crusty bread.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Break from Racing

I took a couple of weekends off from racing in October. One was to attend the Shining Light on New England First Regional Iyengar Yoga Conference in Providence, RI.

It was really great. I was able to take classes from some of the leading Iyengar yoga teachers in the country. It was also the first time that I have taken yoga so intensively. The conference was for three days, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and each day we had three 2-hour yoga sessions. That's 6 hours of yoga per day! It was a wonderful conference, and I felt great afterward. (A bit sore, but really stretched and lengthened. I went for a 5k run in the middle of all the yoga sessions on Saturday, and it was the first time that I've ever run and NOTHING hurt at all. It was amazing!)

The following weekend we attended Scott & ML's wedding, which was beautiful. It was a lovely ceremony, and the bride and groom were both radiant. As usual, Geoff captured the moment wonderfully.
The following day, I went to Franklin Park with Geoff to cheer him on while he participated in the Franklin Park 5K, which is a cross-country running race. Those of you who know Geoff are saying, "What??!!??", because as we all know, Geoff doesn't like to run. However, he wanted to see if the fitness that he has gained from all his years of bicycle racing could translate into something else. He didn't even really train for this event, yet he finished 20th in his age group! He ran at an average pace of 7:16 and finished 188th overall (out of 356).

I am so very proud of him! Considering that when I ran the Komen 5K it was on a flat paved surface, and that I had trained for it for about 6 weeks, I did a personal best pace of 9:54. Geoff ran amazingly fast and this was a difficult race - they were running across fields, through mud, up and down hills, and on gravel paths. He was really great. I don't know if he'll keep running, but if he decides that he wants to, I think he'll be very, very good at it.

Nice job, Geoff!

For all my Franklin Park photos, go here.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Providence Cyclocross Festival

What a great weekend! The weather was amazing and the race courses were twisty, up, down, and all around fun. After the races it was good times with good friends, watching, cheering and heckling the other racers, wandering around the bike expo and enjoying the glorious autumn weather.

On Saturday the we got to the venue 30 minutes before the start of the first race, so I had the chance to pre-ride the course twice, which was great. It was helpful to know what to expect, and also gave me the opportunity to warm up properly, which is something that I'm working on doing better. Then I registered and chatted with some friends, and got on my trainer to continue warming up. Had a totally zen moment when a hawk flew down to the ground about 10 yards in front of my trainer and just hung out there for a while to watch all the crazy bike people.

At the start I was in the second row, but had decided to start conservatively so I didn't try to contest the hole shot. The course was still pretty muddy from the rain overnight, and there were some sections where it was sort of slick. My slower start meant that I got to pass some people, which was fun, and I was pleasantly surprised when one of those people turned out to be Ivy, who is a Cat 3. I tried to put as much distance between her and myself as I could, in the hopes of holding her off for the rest of the race (which I did!).

I was really happy with the way that I did the barriers in this race. There was a long flat lead-up to them and I was able to swing my leg over and coast into the barriers smoothly, which felt great! I still can't manage to do a running, leaping remount, but I am getting smoother at remounting and don't need to come to a complete stop to remount anymore, which is nice and obviously saves time.

The one spot in the race which slowed me up every lap was the steep muddy run-up before the finish line. Every time I got to this point I felt like the mud was sucking me down into it, and it was all I could do to slowly crawl up that hill, leaning on my bike the whole time. It was probably only 15-20 seconds of "running", but it felt like the hardest 15-20 seconds of the entire race. I needed about 2 minutes to recover from that section every lap.

This weakness really hit home on the last lap, when I was closing in on Jill M from Cambridge and a Specialized rider. I was only a bike-length behind them coming into that run-up, but after that they were beyond my reach and although I sprinted strongly up to the finish, catching them wasn't even a possibility. Guess I need to work on uphill running sprints, huh? I ended up placing 23rd out of 39 finishers (not sure how many started).

Photo by Geoff Martin (beastgp)

On Sunday I was also in the second row for the start, and once again started conservatively. There were a lot more women starting this race and it was a big mess with lots of riders falling down in the twisty section after the start. Luckily I was able to move around them without crashing myself. The first lap was a little bit of a blur, mostly trying to avoid other riders and put some space in between them and myself. On the second lap I had a lot more breathing room, so I concentrated on riding well and keeping good lines. I passed quite a few riders with mechanicals. On the third lap I focused on staying in ahead of the riders who were behind me and tried to pick off a couple of the ones in front of me. I was shocked when one of those riders turned out to be teammate Cathy R, and saddened because it looked like she was in a lot of pain from a crash.

On the last lap, Ann (Sturdy Girl) was hot on my tail, and I tried to go as fast as I could up the finishing hill. She had a lot of speed on me and I could hear her coming around on my right. I stood up and sprinted for the finish with all I had (even going for a bike throw on the line), but it wasn't enough and she beat me by about 2 inches. Sigh.

In the end, I had a lot of fun on the course, and my legs felt a lot better than they had on Saturday. I had another good race, maybe even better than the day before, but oddly enough, my finishing results were exactly the same: 23rd place. (This time out of 44 finishers, and I'm told there were 13 DNFs.)

I am very exited to have a new set of nemeses and victims on crossresults.com. :-)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Of Cats and Flats...

(Or... why I'm not listed in the results for either day of Gloucester)

On Friday, our kitty Rimmer got sick and we had to take him to the cat hospital for fluids and medications. They let us take him home that night, but we had to bring him back in for more treatment on Saturday morning, so I missed Day 1.

Luckily our stoic little cat started to feel much better and to eat again, and he was well enough that I felt like I could race on Sunday.

Day 2 involved failing to get a decent warm up, watching my teammate Janet R crash, riding the sand, passing people as I got going, and then - smack! - I was on the ground. I wasn't sure what happened, so I picked myself up and kept racing, but soon realized I could barely keep my bike upright in the turns. I was about as far from the pit as you could get, so I called it a day. My front tire was as flat as a pancake. It was my first 'cross mechanical and first 'cross DNF. Oh well - got that over with. On to Providence!

Here's one of my favorite shots of Rimmer investigating the camera lens.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Blunt Park Cyclocross Mudfest

Wow, that was the muddiest race I have ever done! Since it was an Open Women's race, we were the last race of the day and the course had turned into mud soup by that time. There were at least three muddy ponds to ride through (during warm up I watched Michele A ride through one and it looked like half her bike disappeared into it - I couldn't stop laughing!), and there really wasn't any part of the course that wasn't mud. Well, there might have been one small stretch where you could go way off the racing line and be on slick wet grass instead of wheel-sucking mud, but that was it.

My goal for the race was as follows: Stay upright.
I almost succeeded, but more on that later.

I started in the 2nd row and sprinted off the line (pavement), passed a few people and took a good line into the first corner (and into the mud). Then it was chaos. A twisty muddy section, then a large log forcing a dismount, then more muddy twisty bits, and another log (stay on bike but put foot down for stability), more mud and a then another log and forced dismount, followed by choice between mud soup or off camber roots, resulting in running to higher ground to remount, then more mud, more twists, and finally some pavement (ahhh!), then back into mud and another log dismount, a huge mud puddle, and then the section with alternative grass non-racing-line areas, then back into mud, chicanes (generally better to run), then into the barriers (3 barriers! who does 3 barriers??), mud sucking you down between them, remount and more twists and turns and two more giant mud puddles, then an up and downhill chicane (dismounting and running recommended for sure) and then more mud and more twisting and finally you're back on the pavement and across the start/finish line to do it all again. Phew!

Ok, the first lap I went out hard (probably too hard) and was holding my own for most of the lap, and then I got unsettled in the muddy chicane and sort of ran out of gas after that. A few people (including teammate Terri) passed me before the barriers (I think) and then I was on my own for the rest of the race, except for a little leapfrogging with a masters racer and two juniors.

The juniors were faster than me in the twisty muddy sections and passed me, but when we got to the pavement, I shifted into the big ring, left them behind and kept them there. (Ah, satisfaction!) The master racer was definitely faster than me everywhere, but he kept having problems and I would pass him while he was either fixing a mechanical or picking himself up out of the mud. Eventually this would come back to bite me when, on the last lap, I decided to go a little harder and came screaming into one of the forced log dismounts, preparing to do an awesome running dismount, only to find out that I was actually clipped in with my left foot and I went down HARD! As I'm lying on the ground, the master guy is coming up behind me yelling something like, "I'm going fast!", and I scrambled and was up and over the log and getting back on my bike as he passed me. As I started racing again, I could hear Todd R in my head saying, "You can stay clipped in if your coming slowly into the barriers, but definitely not when your riding fast." No kidding! That took all the wind out of my sails and I just went into self-preservation mode for the rest of the race. Luckily I was in no-man's land and wasn't in any danger of being caught and passed at that point, but I was hoping to close in on both the master racer and the woman in front of me. Oh well.

The lessons I learned from this race are as follows. 1) Find out if there is a bike wash and wash the mud out of your brakes before you race! Both Michele and I started the race with our bikes caked in mud and while everything still worked, it would have been much nicer to start with clean equipment (especially the brakes) 2) While it's awesome when you can clip into your pedals even if they're caked in mud, beware that you might actually be clipped in even if you didn't try to clip in, therefore, always unclip left foot before coming hot into the barriers (or log) 3) I love Campy!!! A fall in warm up and later on falling in the race resulted in both of my shifter mechanisms being submerged and encased in mud. The bike shifted perfectly with no issues at all for the entire race. I had zero mechanical issues. 4) I love Time Attack pedals and cleats! I could clip in every time, the only real issues I had were finding the pedal - once I found it, clip! (and of course the previously stated clipping without trying)

On another note, my new bike rocks! It is so light - I think that was slightly unrealized at the time, but considering that I had to carry my bike 6 times each lap, over the course of 4 laps, I would have been a lot slower if I was picking up and carrying my heavy old bike that much. What a way to start it's life as a 'cross bike. Awww, poor baby!

Komen 5K

On Saturday I ran the Komen 5K charity race for my corporate team and with my friend, Linda. Our team collectively raised over $2000 for the charity.

I've been running once or twice a week for a little over a month now, both to prepare for cross and in anticipation of this event. I'm happy to report that I completed the run on Saturday with an under 10:00 minute mile average, which is definitely a personal best!

It was a gorgeous day, there were thousands of runners and walkers, all raising money for a great cause and I'm happy that I was a part of it.

If anyone still would like to donate money to the charity, you can do so here.
http://tinyurl.com/y9c2zuo

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Quad 'Cross 2009

Well - I got back to racing this weekend at the Quad Cross race in Bedford, MA. It was great to have a race so close to home, especially since I was out quite late the previous night at ML's bachelorette party. I limited myself to one glass of wine, but I still ate too much rich food, culminating with "Molten Chocolate" from Finale. Drool...

Anyway, being my first race of the (cross) season, not having been on the bike most of the prior week, and the anticipated late night, my only goal for this race was "to have fun". Knowing that was my goal didn't really help with the nervous anticipation, however, as my heat rate was practically in my Tempo zone in the car driving out to the race. Ack!

I got there early enough to ride the course two times before the Cat 4 men started and once more in between their race and ours. When I pulled up to the start line I was much more composed and relaxed than I had been earlier.

Waiting to start, I was chatting with my friend Rebekah (who I hadn't seen since my last cross race back in November 2008) and suddenly we were off. I had lined up on row two, since I wasn't planning on trying to get in front or anything, and suddenly I realized that all the first row girls were getting away from the second row girls. Heck! I can go faster than that! So I got out of the saddle and closed the gap.

On lap 1, nothing eventful happened for me until the barriers. They came just after a blind corner and they exited with a tight u-turn into the only real spongy uphill woods section. I had been able to ride it in my warmup, but since I was in a group at that point, I thought it would be safer to run it, which I did, and did not give up any places there. Yay!

The next significant point was coming into the final single barrier. In the men's Cat 4 race, I watched practically the entire field wipe out in the turn leading to that barrier, so I knew to watch out. (See Geoff's photos of that here.) I remembered Todd R's clinic instructions to "dismount and coast as long as you can", so I glided down the slope and stepped off in the apex of the turn. It felt very smooth and almost graceful.

I actually passed the rider in front of me with that technique, and I was pretty happy about it. And then... I had to wipe that self-satisfied smile off my face when I crashed in the mud of the next hairpin. Argh! The girl I had passed passed me back, along with at least one other. I picked myself up, lost more time bobbling around in the wrong gear, and finally got going again.

On the second lap I was more or less on my own and I just concentrated on being smooth and steady, tried to take deep breaths on the downhills to get my heart rate under control, and rode the spongy woods section (still faster for me than running).

On the third lap I passed the girl in front of me (in the barriers!) and on the fourth lap I passed another girl (the one with whom I had dosie-doed in the first lap) right before the finish. I even managed to get out of the saddle and sprint to the line to make sure she didn't come around me. I was cooked after the sprint and just sort of stumbled off my bike and sat on the ground for a bit trying to breathe. Geoff captured it on film (of course).

That was a HUGE improvement over my first two years of cross racing, because it was the first time that I've had enough energy left at the end of the race to pass anyone. In previous years, I've been the one being passed in the last lap or two.

In the end I finished 18th out of 30 starters and 28 finishers. I am pleased with that result as my only goal was to "have fun", which I did. Looking forward to more races!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Haven't posted in a while

I've been meaning to post on a lot of things, but I haven't found the time. It's rainy today so it seems like a good opportunity.

I was lucky enough to be able to take 4 weeks off of work this July & August. I couldn't take them all at once, but I was off for two weeks, worked for one week, then was off for two more weeks. It was really nice, and I got the chance to relax and experience life at my preferred speed, instead of the crazy hectic life I usually lead.

One of the weeks was spent on Cape Cod with Sallie, Michele, & Catherine at Sallie's mom's beautiful house in Chatham. We spent some time at the beach, rode our bikes, went to coffee shops, practiced yoga, and ate really well.

Speaking of eating well, the CSA produce that we're getting continues to be wonderful. We had a couple of weeks where everything was purple. Purple carrots, purple peppers, purple broccoli, and three different variations of purple eggplant. We also had glorious peaches and several different types of melon. Yum!

Now that the seasons are changing we are starting to get more fall produce. We are getting a lot of corn, red peppers, apples, and different types of squash.

The change of season also marks the transition from road cycling to off-road cycling and I'm starting my cyclocross racing season tomorrow! It will be an appropriate kick-off since it will be a mudfest after all the rain today. :-) It's not cyclocross without mud!

I'm looking forward to it. Hopefully I'll get my race reports posted without too much delay and maybe that will inspire me to update this blog more regularly.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend in Vermont

Nearly every Memorial Day weekend for the past couple of years, several of our cycling friends have gone up to Stowe, VT. Most of us go for the cycling, but some go running, shopping and occasionally, canoeing and wine tasting.

Once again we stayed at Ye Olde England Inne, where they feed us wonderful big breakfasts to keep the energy up while on the bike.

This year Michele & Todd joined us and since ML brought her road bike, I had friends to ride with so I didn't have to try to stay with the "big boys" while they climbed 2 or 3 mountain gaps in the course of 110 miles... ;-)

On Saturday ML, Michele, Todd and I rode 38 miles from Stowe to Lake Elmore and back. We stopped at the "Lake Elmore Beauty Spot" for a photo op.

Saturday was also Todd's 40th birthday. We celebrated with a surprise ice cream cake.

On Sunday, some of the boys were feeling like a more mellow road ride, so Michele and I cycled with Geoff, Todd, Justin and Dave. We did a 43 mile loop from Stowe that ended by climbing over Smuggler's Notch. It took a while to get up there, but it was worth it. The scenery was so beautiful - huge giant boulders and twisty road. The descent was a blast too. I only hit 49 mph (I think my all time maximum speed is 52 mph), but it was still thrilling.


That night we all went to the Flatbread Kitchen in Waitsfield for dinner and celebrated Justin's 30th birthday and ML's (undisclosed) birthday.

That's Michele modeling with the pizza.

(Photo by Geoff)


On Monday Geoff & I and Scott & ML rode together and stopped for photos of shaggy cows and miniature horses. Geoff also got kissed by a cow.

(Thanks to ML for the photo!)

It was a lovely way to spend a long holiday weekend.

Maui Trip - Part 3

Ok, folks, once again I am on vacation and am able to finally finish writing up the Maui trip from January. I know, it's sad. Anyway, here it is. It picks up where Part 2 left off...

Friday

My parents and Geoff and I went down to Lahina harbour early Friday morning for a whale watch trip. We were in a smallish pontoon boat that held about 25-30 people. It was piloted by Captain Jill. She and her first mate were very knowledgeable about the whales - where they migrated to/from, what they did when they got to Maui, their mating behavioral patterns, etc. Almost immediately we found a pod of whales: mom, calf and escort. We followed them for a while and Cap't Jill decided to nickname the male "Crankypants" because he kept breaching and thumping his tail, even though there didn't seem to be any competition around.

It was nice to be in such a small boat. Geoff and I sat right on the edge on the pontoons and we were only about a foot or two above the water. At one point we moved over to a different group of whales, where there were two males fighting over the female, wanting to escort her and her calf. The boat had to keep a certain distance from the whales, but the wales were of course free to approach us if they felt like it and when they did that, the captain had to cut the engines. The two males who were fighting each other were extremely active, jumping out of the water and doing all sorts of "tricks" to get the attention of the female.

They came really close to the boat - probably within 10-20 feet, and at one point, one of them swam underneath the boat! It was super exciting. Geoff got some amazing photos of them.

They were a lot closer to us than when we were in the kayaks, and while it was certainly thrilling and exciting and wonderful to see them cavorting so close to us, it wasn't quite the same peaceful, majestic experience of kayaking because we were surrounded by other people shrieking, gasping, calling out, and pointing. But it was still an amazing experience and I am so glad that we did it, especially because that is where we met Tom and Silvia.

When we sat down in the boat, we quickly realized that there was a couple sitting next to us speaking to each other in German. I always pick up on this since I was born in Germany and lived there until I was 5. Geoff and I were joking about how long it would take before my Dad started to speak to them in German, but sadly he didn't take the bait.

Instead, Tom was admiring Geoff's camera and asked to see some of his shots. We all started chatting and found out that Tom was from Munich but lived in Zurich, and that Silvia was from Italy but lived in Hamburg. Wow, what an international couple. After the whale watch, Tom and Silvia asked Geoff and myself if we would like to get together for drinks later on and we exchanged phone numbers.

After the whale watch, we had time for an ice cream before we went on the Atlantis submarine adventure. This was a small submarine that takes people down to the coral reefs to look at the beautiful reef fish that live there. My dad doesn't swim, so this was a great option for him - he usually doesn't get to see the fish up close like that. None of us had ever been in a submarine before (how many opportunities are there, really?), so this was really cool.

Unfortunately, the photos didn't come out very well because there wasn't much light down at the bottom of the ocean and while it looked great in person, the camera couldn't work it out. Human brains (amazing machines that they are) are able to render an image so much better than a camera.

Saturday

Geoff went on a 5 hour bike ride from Kaanapali to Kahalui and back and I went snorkeling in Hono Bay (Turtle Bay) with my mom. I love turtles and had been a bit sad that I didn't see any on the kayak-snorkel trip. I was really hoping to see at least one before I went home. Mom and I had to clamber over a lot of rocks to get into the cove and there were a few other people who were just getting out of the water as we went in, and they said they had seen turtles. Yippee!

In we went (brrr!) and we saw all kinds of fish, but no turtles! Mom eventually gave up, and went back to the shore, but I carried on right across the cove in my quest for turtles. Just when I had decided to give up and had turned around to head back, I swam across some coral and saw what I thought was a very large rock at the bottom of the bay.

As I passed over it, I realized that the rock had feet and a head! Yay! I finally saw my turtle. :-) After I got back to shore, I was looking out across the cove and I saw a turtle come to the surface to take a breath. Awww.

That evening we went on a sunset dinner cruise, which was my idea. I don't know what I was thinking, because I often have a tendency towards sea sickness, and I should have known better. Since I had been absolutely fine in the kayak and on the pontoon boat, it never occurred to me.

About 30 minutes after leaving port, I started to feel a little sick. By the time they brought the food, I couldn't even look at it. The waitress was very nice and gave me some candied ginger to eat and I think it helped a little bit, but eventually I had to go to the back of the ship, where it was most stable, and hang out there. Geoff was so sweet to come with me and we both missed desert. I am proud to say that I didn't throw up, and we even saw some more whales before I started to feel bad. The matre d' felt sorry for us and gave us our desert to go in a napkin for later.

After we got back to solid ground I immediately started to feel better and we met up with Tom and Silvia for drinks and learned more about them. They are really nice and I hope we can see them again some day.

Sunday

We had to fly home on Sunday. We left Kaanapail after breakfast and drove back to Kahalui. Then we flew from Maui to San Francisco, and had a red-eye from San Francisco to Boston, arriving very early Monday morning. I don't think it was snowing, but it was difficult to come home, both because of the dreary weather and the jet lag. But it was wonderful to see the kitties again. We had really missed them.

The End

Here is a link to the photos I took that day. Sadly, the ones I took of the whales are terrible, so just appreciate Geoff's. :-)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Polenta with Sauteed Kale and Pearl Onions

Well, here I am posting another recipe and not a race report. Who am I?

I'm not entirely sure about that yet, but what I do know is that although we've never had polenta before, we will most certainly be having it again.

In the CSA pickup on Friday, we got kale and red pearl onions (among other things). I wasn't sure what to do with them, but then remembered that I had a recipe for Polenta Rounds with Steamed Greens & Leeks from my vegetarian cooking class. Although it wasn't exactly right, I hoped it might work.

Instead of using pre-cooked polenta from a tube (like frozen cookie dough), I decided to try to make polenta from scratch. I followed the directions on the package, and it was great!

Here's the recipe for the kale & red onions:

4 red onions, both bulbs and greens, thinly sliced
one bunch kale, chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
olive oil
red pepper flakes

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat; add red onions and saute 5 minutes or until soft. Reduce heat to low and cook 10-15 minutes until they start to caramelize.

Add kale, garlic, and red pepper and continue sauteeing until kale starts to wilt.

To serve, place a mound of greens on a slice of polenta. Optional: top with grated parmsean cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.

Tomorrow Geoff & I are going to make Herbed Couscous with Garlic Scrapes and Hakurei Turnips!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Kohlrabi, Scallions & Garlic Scrapes

Ok, maybe I do have something to say after all.

Geoff and I have purchased a half of a farm share (we're splitting it with Catherine). For those of you who don't know, Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a way for us city folk to get farm-fresh food without it being picked raw and shipped halfway around the country. It's also a fun way to try new food, since you have no control over what will be in your CSA box each week - you have to figure out what to do with whatever you end up bringing home with you.

Our first week of the CSA gave us strawberries, green garlic, turnips, beets, lettuces and spinach. Neither Geoff nor I had ever cooked turnips or beets before (although we both like beets a lot), but the farm's website had a recipe for Beets, Carrots and Hakurei Turnips in a Lime Vinaigrette, which I made, but used a raspberry vinaigrette marinade which I got at the cider mill store in Vermont. It turned out pretty well. The turnips didn't really have a lot of taste on their own and took on the flavor of the beets and carrots. I also sauteed the green tops of the beets and turnips with green garlic and olive oil, and that was scrumptious.

This week (2nd pickup) we got some new items - kohlrabi, garlic scrapes and dill - along with strawberries, turnips, carrots, scallions, lettuce, and spinach.

Last week I didn't know what green garlic was, and this week I didn't know what kohlrabi or garlic scrapes were. The kohlrabi we got were purple and looked like little sputniks with leaves attached. I was a little taken aback and unprepared. The farm website didn't have any recipes for kohlrabi so I turned to the world wide web for assistance. I found a recipe for roasted kohlrabi which I modified to use some of the other items from the CSA. (That vegetarian cooking class I took this spring is paying off!)

This is my made-up recipe:

2 kohlrabi, peeled and diced
4 tiny farm-fresh scallions, diced
2 garlic scrapes, diced
1 tbsp olive oil
dash salt

Mix ingredients in a bowl, transfer to oven-safe casserole dish and bake at 450 degrees for 30-40 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes (approx) after first 20 minutes.

It was absolutely delicious! I highly recommend it.

For the record, the kohlrabi was very tasty raw as well. One could easily slice it and add it to salads for a bit of extra crunch and flavor.

I also sauteed the kohlrabi leaves with turnip and beet leaves and the last of the green garlic from the previous week.

I'm not sure what to do with the dill, but Catherine said she has a potato salad recipe that uses it, and if the sun ever appears, then that would be a nice thing to have out on the deck on a warm, sunny evening.

Can't wait to see what's in our pickup tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Blank

I haven't felt like saying anything recently. It's been raining for the last three weeks, I miss my kitty friend, and I have no interest in racing right now.

Time will heal all, hopefully.

Since I have nothing new to say, I'll try to post up the last batch of photos from Maui and also from the Memorial Day weekend cycling trip in Vermont.

If not this week, then the next one. Maybe it'll stop raining by then...

Friday, June 5, 2009

Lister (1992-2009)

Rest in peace, my love.

You are greatly missed and will never be forgotten.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Three for Three

Apparently my back wheel is some kind of magnet that draws other bicycles into it. Or perhaps it's a vortex, I'm not sure. What I do know is that in three weeks, I've done three races, been involved in three incidents, and had three wheel repairs...

Saturday was the Lake Sunapee Bike Race. The first seven or so miles are flat, and then the hills start. After what happened at Sterling last week, I kept thinking about those first few miles and wondering how sketchy it was going to be, especially with a women's Cat 4 field of 34 pre-registered riders. That's a really large field for Cat 4.

I felt a bit sick to my stomach the night before the race, and that feeling carried over into the morning as well. When the race started, I didn't feel like I wanted to mix it up in the front, and I was sort of hanging back a little, hiding in the middle of the field.

There was a lot of nervousness: the pace was fast, then slow; people were moving around a lot, and then randomly you'd hear "slowing, slowing"! At one point my teammate Katherine S. got a gap on everyone else, but she got reeled back in.

After about 4 miles or so, I heard crashing noises from behind me, then I felt major impact on my back wheel, and something pulling me over on my right side. There was a rider to my right and slightly ahead, and as I started to "fall" towards her, I shifted my weight, controlled my bike, then regained my balance and kept going. I heard weird sounds coming from my drivetrain, and looked down to see my derailleur in a strange position and the chain rattling around in it oddly. I wasn't sure how badly it was damaged or if I should continue, but I shifted through all the gears in the cassette and they all worked.

The noises were especially bad in my easiest gear (25), but other than that it seemed stable. I couldn't see the derailleur hitting the spokes, but that's sort of what it sounded like. Anyway, by this point I had drifted off the back of the pack, but decided to continue and chased back on with several other racers who had been delayed by the crash.

After we turned onto route 11, we started to overtake the other women's (Cat 1-2-3) field. They were racing two laps to our one, so they were probably going easier at the start. The same thing happened last year.

When we hit the big climb they started passing us back. It was a little awkward. One of the riders in my field dropped her chain, but reacted to it very safely, told everyone what had happened, and people just went around her. I worked really hard to get over the crest of that hill more or less in the middle of the main pack of riders. I passed a lot of people and I was really happy about it untill I realized that the crest wasn't the top - there was still more climbing to do. Oh no!

Most of the folks that I had passed started to overtake me and I jumped on Leah's wheel (Cambridge) as she came by. I managed to stay with her until the middle of the second hill, but my legs had turned to mush and she just rode away from me.

I pushed hard to try to catch her on the downhill, but couldn't. After a while I looked back and saw a group behind me. One of the riders was teammate Loraine, and I was really happy to have them join me. We had a group of five for a while, but at the next big hill, one woman rode away from all of us and sadly Loraine popped off the back.

I worked with the two other women for the rest of the race, Jill (Cambridge) and Carol (Portland Velo). We got a nice double rotating paceline going and it felt good (although the noise from my derailleur was annoying and I was really missing the 25 on the hills). About a mile from the rotary before the finish, we caught a Noreast rider who had been dangling in front of us for about 10 miles. The four of us entered the rotary together, but Jill and Noreast climbed up the finish hill much faster than I could, with Carol finishing just behind me.

I was both pleased and disappointed with my result. I would have liked to have placed better, but all things considered, it wasn't too bad. I sort of wonder what would have happened if my bike hadn't been damaged, but in reality, stuff just happens.

I completed this race 3 minutes faster than I did last year. So that's some measurable progress, at least.

Huge congratulation to my teammate Shannon who got 2nd place! She's riding super-strong this year.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sterling Classic Road Race

Cat 4 - 3 laps - 24 miles - 33 starters - 30 finishers

Sterling was my first "real" race of the season (although I've done 1 B and 3 A/B races at Wells). I was a little nervous but also excited. I'm trying to not have expectations that are too high, but I've lost some weight and have been hoping that it will help me with the hills, so I figured this course would be a good test of my fitness and competitiveness for the season. I was still in the pack when we got onto Route 12 (about 2/3rs of a lap) and was working hard, but didn't feel like it was killing me yet. At this point people started jockeying for position, setting up for the first time up the start/finish hill. There were some squirrely riders and I had to yell "hold your line" a few times. It was making me a little wary.

I was on the left side, mid-pack when a crash started on the right side near the front. Having crashed at Wells only 6 days prior, I was determined not to hit the deck again, braked hard, and came to a stop. As I slowed, I felt a serious impact on my back wheel and after stopping, looked back and saw handlebars though my spokes. Holy cow! The rider apologized profusely and untangled herself, but my chain had come off, and on further inspection, my skewer was open and the wheel was starting to drop out. Before I could even react, one of the Mavic guys was there and he reassembled me and sent me on my way. My bike computer says I was stopped for 1:11. Sigh.

The rest of my race was either in TT mode or working with other riders. I rode on my own to the start/finish, then for 1/2 of the second lap, I worked with Emily C. (Gearworks) on the rolling hills on the backside of the course. We were trying to catch a group of about 6 or 7 just ahead of us. Unfortunately, I could not stay with her up the last roller before the turn onto Rt. 12. She joined that group and I was on my own again (but trying to catch them) until the start/finish, when teammate Joy and the other Emily C. (Bike Alley) picked me up. The three of us worked together for the rest of the lap (and race), continuing to pick up riders until we had a group of 7, including Leah (Cambridge) & Carmen (CVC). As we all got to the end of Rt. 12, Emily (Bike Alley) attacked hard, the rest of us followed, I screwed up my shifting coming into the hill and sadly finished 6th from our group, netting 23rd place overall.

I'm really glad that I was able to control my bike and not fall. I don't know how those handlebars got through my spokes - but I was certainly feeling a lot of movement and pressure on my rear wheel. I think that volunteering as an instructor at the NEBC Intro to Racing clinic every spring is a wonderful refresher course on bike handling skills and the importance of not panicking in those situations. Teaching others reminds yourself what to do and how to do it. I wish every beginner racer was required to take that clinic or one like it. There were some very sketchy people in that field who looked like they had never ridden in a group before. It's scary.

I feel so bad for my teammate, Michele H., who was injured in the crash and had to go to the hospital to receive 15 stitches in her ear. Heal well Michele. We will miss you while you are recovering. Teammates Lexi and Joy were also involved in the crash, but luckily their injuries were minor enough that they were able to finish the race. I give Joy credit for getting back up and finishing her first non-training race, in spite of a bloody elbow and a bruised hip.

After crashing last week, I don't really feel very trusting of other riders at the moment. I guess we'll see how it goes at Sunapee. At least it'll give me another chance to see if I can get over the hills any faster than last year.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The magic of icing

Well, it happened. My first race crash. I debated posting about it because my mom reads my blog, and she and Dad already think I'm insane for being a bike racer. The good news is that I'm largely uninjured. My worst injury is a huge bruise on the outside of my left thigh. It's really nasty. Unfortunately, I didn't discover it until I got home.

My other injuries were a banged up and slightly scraped knee and what I first thought was a sprained thumb. Luckily, my teammate Cathy R gave me an ice pack, which I applied to the knee and the thumb and after a while they didn't hurt any more and the swelling had gone down. The end result is that the places that got iced didn't really bruise, didn't swell, and barely hurt later that day. The places that did not get iced are still swollen and tender 3 days later. So my advice is this: ice immediately, and you will feel better for it.

So, how did it happen? Well I was racing the A/B race at Wells Ave on Sunday, and the guys started off really slow. People were chit-chatting in the field, things like "Hey, good to see you again!" and "Yeah, this is my first race of the season". There was a bit of sketchiness and people were probably not giving the race their full attention.

After about 4 laps I wasn't even breathing hard, so you know this was just a walk in the park on a Sunday morning. Anyway, in the first turn, all of a sudden a guy in the row in front of me and a couple of places to my right starts losing it. (He later said that the rider in front of him grabbed the brakes.) He fell to his left, which was basically right in front of me. I was in the middle of the pack, there were riders on both sides of me, and I didn't have an exit path. I braked as much as I thought I could and the next thing I knew I was on the ground.

I felt something brush my shoulder and instinctively ducked and covered my head with my arms. Apparently this was the right thing to do because Cathy later told me that someone went flying over me and landed hard. I feel fortunate that I walked away with such minor injuries. The original guy apparently broke his collarbone. There were at least 7 or 8 people that were taken down in the crash.

Geoff stopped to make sure I was okay, as did Cathy and possibly one or two other teammates. I remember Christine asking if I was all right. We discovered that my rear wheel was a taco, so there would be no more racing for me that day. I'm not sure I would have wanted to continue anyway, I was feeling a bit shaken at that point. Cathy decided she was done and she told Geoff to jump back in. He checked that was ok with me, and I told him to go ahead. Cathy walked me back to the start/finish, gave me ice, and I hung out with some other teammates and friends and watched the rest of the race.

Patrick gave me and my bike a ride home (so Geoff didn't have to cycle home to get the car and come back for me). Then I took the bike up to the Loft in the afternoon to get the frame checked out and have the wheel rebuilt. I'm bummed because that powertap wheel was my birthday present from September and I haven't had it very long.

But I'd rather have a wrecked wheel than a wrecked leg, arm, collarbone, or head. As much as I love my bike, it's just a bike and I'm happy that I walked away with minimal bodily harm.

At least this gets my first race crash out of the way. ("First and last," Rebecca said.)

I'll be racing Sterling on Saturday and I actually think I'll enjoy a smaller field with just women for a change. ;-)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tiny Rant

We are CYCLISTS, not BIKERS.

Bikers wear black leather and chains, ride Harleys, drink beer, and engage in bar fights.

Cyclists wear brightly colored Lycra and spandex, ride Cannondales, drink Accelerade, and shave their legs.

ARGH! Get it right, people!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

First Race

Today I raced the Wells Ave B race - my first race of the season. I am happy to report that I didn't get dropped and I finished in the middle of the pack. There were a lot of women in the field, including Christine, Loraine, Katherine S, Julie L, Natalia G and most of the NEBC women's elite team. It was really fun and I'm looking forward to the next one!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Springtime in the Desert (Tucson Trip)

On Monday I reassembled my bike, then cut my hand open and spent a couple of hours in urgent care (see last post). :-(

Tuesday I had a pedicure and took the LeMond to a bike shop for a slight derailleur adjustment. My thumb was still hurting a lot (making it painful to brake), so after lunch I just took a quick 1.5 hour spin looping around my parents' neighborhood, which was lovely. I got in 1100 feet of climbing and saw a hawk, eight Gambel's Quail, a lizard, and houses with oranges and lemons growing in the yards. I also saw some cattle up on the ridge. The second time I went by they were nearer the road and I saw about seven calves. They all watched me as I passed. Very cute!

That evening I had dinner with Mom & Dad at the golf course restaurant and we all went to see "The Boy in Striped Pajamas". Wow - that was a powerful movie.

Sadly, I had gotten an email that morning from Catherine explaining that she had stomach flu and was in no shape to fly. She wouldn't be arriving until Thursday.

Without Catherine joining me, I had more time to ride, so Wednesday I went out for 4 hours. Luckily, Geoff had gotten me a Garmin Edge just before I left, and I was able to plot a nice route and not get too lost. I did take a couple of wrong turns in one neighborhood, because many of the roads were dirt, and the Garmin didn't realize it.

It was a really fun ride - the longest I've had so far this year, and it was an absolute joy to be wearing short sleeves and shorts. There were no potholes and I even enjoyed putting on sunscreen. :-)

On this ride I saw about 6 different hawks, often in pairs, majestically circling in the air currents. Unfortunately, each time I stopped to photograph them, they would fly off by the time I wrangled the camera phone from my jersey pocket. I also saw more quail and a jackrabbit.

At one point I was in the middle of nowhere, and I got blocked at a railroad crossing by a train that was stopped on the tracks. I couldn't see the end of it in either direction, and I wasn't sure which way it was headed. It didn't move for about 5 minutes (which gave me a chance to take some photos, stuff my vest into my pocket, eat some sport beans and consult the Garmin).

Wednesday afternoon I went to the gym with my mom and lifted weights and did core exercises while she walked on the treadmill. Then we all went out for authentic Mexican food with my aunt and uncle. (They used to live in Hawaii, but moved a mile and a half from my parents about 3 years ago.)

Thursday Catherine wasn't expected until 10am, so I decided to go for a quick morning ride. I road out Oracle up to the Biosphere and then turned around and came back. It took me 45 minutes to go out and 37 to come back. I didn't really realize it was uphill most of the way out, because it was so gradual. I was flying on the way back!

When Catherine arrived, we visited with my folks for a bit and then she and I went hiking in Catalina State Park. It was beautiful and wild and we felt we were on the set of a Western movie.

Then we met my parents for lunch and we all headed out to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, which is to the west of Tucson over Gates Pass near the Saguaro National Park. It is a beautiful museum of desert flora and fauna in a natural setting. I was thrilled to see an ocelot, two adorable bobcats, and a Mexican fox. We also saw some groundhogs, a few hummingbirds and a roadrunner! (We did not see Wilie Coyote, unfortunately.)

Catherine went off to her conference, and my parents and I headed back to their house for dinner and my last night there. I did some computer tech support for my mom and then off to bed and up early to catch my flight back to Boston.

It was a nice escape and it was wonderful to be in full sunshine for four whole days!

All my Tucson photos are posted here. I only had my camera phone, so they are not the best quality.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tetanus in Tucson

Not an auspicious start to my Tucson trip. I sliced open my thumb attempting to cut through a zip-tie that was too tight to wedge scissors through. I spent about 2 hours in the Urgent Care center and ended up with three stitches and a tetanus shot. Doh!

On the bright side, it was about 75 degrees and sunny.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Maui Trip Part 2

Well, it took being trapped on a plane to Phoenix to get me to write up part two of the Maui trip. Pretty sad, but here it is. I hope it is enjoyable. I also hope that I will be able to write about my current trip before July. :-)

Tuesday

Our first full day at the Kaanapali Beach Resort was, for me, the most anticipated day of the entire trip. I had been planning my ziplining experience for a couple of weeks. It was the one activity that I was looking forward to most eagerly and for which I had made advance reservations.

I've always been a bit of a thrill-seeker, and while ziplining wasn't really something that was on my radar screen, as soon as I heard about it I desperately wanted to try it. Unfortunately, I also knew that this was one adventure that I would be doing alone, as Geoff had planned his entire Maui trip around the rental bike and my parents aren't into living life on the edge.

I arrived at the zipline office early. I was super excited and also a little trepidatious. I actually had no idea what I had signed myself up for, and suddenly wondered what I was doing there, and felt decidedly alone. I went to the restroom and when I came back there was a group of four older women (likely in their early 60s) in the waiting room.

I must have looked a little nervous, because one of the women kindly leaned over towards me and said something like, "Don't worry - it'll be great! We've all done this before and it's fantastic!"

I laughed a little and said something like, "Oh, thanks. That's good to hear. By the way, where have you ziplined before?"

She replied, "We all ziplined for the first time last year in Northern Thailand."

OMG. Right then and there I decided that some day I would have to zipline in Northern Thailand. How cool is that? I immediately loved these women.

Anyway, we arrived at the mountainside hut, met our guides, and got kitted up. They took us to the first cable and showed us how our harnesses were secured to the line, where to put our hands, and how to jump/run off the platform. What??

One of the guides said, "No worries, I'll show you," and off he went. Yee-haw!! Wow!

I still felt slightly anxious, but the nice older women who had done it before jumped off the edge of the world with abandon, and who was I not to follow?

It was FANTASTIC! Completely exhilarating and tremendous. I loved every minute of it. The minute my harness was attached to the line, I had metaphorically jumped in with both feet and was not about to look back. And I'm so glad that I did.

Eight lines of increasingly longer distances, starting at 350' and culminating at 1000'. On the last one I held on with only one hand and used the other one to take video on my little digital camera. Anyone interested in that is welcome to view it at the bottom of this post.

I would zipline again, if given the opportunity, in an instant. It was one of the most thrilling things that I have ever done (and I'm a bike racer).

I got back from my adventure full of energy with lots of stories to tell, met my parents and Geoff (who had just returned from a 4 hour ride around the northern coastline of West Maui) for lunch, and then we all went into Lahaina and explored the town for a while.

More zipline photos.

Lahaina photos


Wednesday

On Wednesday, Geoff and I went on a kayak/snorkel trip. This was the second-most anticipated activity for me. I have always wanted to try sea kayaking. For some reason, however, I had always imagined that my first experience would be in coastal Maine, paddling in and out of coves surrounded by seals. Instead it was the cliffs of Maui and humpback whales

Geoff was also looking forward to this and took a day of the bike, which was nice because it meant that we got to do something together, as I had no intentions of cycling because I was still recovering from 'cross season (I know, I know - it was January already, and how much rest did I really need - but still).

Our previous kayaking experience has been in a tandem kayak on a lake in Norway, Maine. So we were not really that sure what to expect. It turned out that we had a tandem kayak in Maui as well. There were altogether 4 tandem kayaks and three single kayaks, including the instructor/guide.

He lined us all up on the beach with our kayaks and had us sit in them and explained and demonstrated how to paddle, how to turn, how to get out of the kayak in the middle of the ocean, and how to get back into the kayak in the middle of the ocean. Yikes. This was not Lake Norway.

While we were on the beach looking out at the water, we could see whales coming to the surface pretty much right in front of us. With our lesson finished, our guide told us to get in the water and paddle straight out toward the whales. We all paddled out until he told us to stop. We could no longer see the whales, because they had submerged, and we weren't really sure where they were or when and where they would resurface.

We waited, silently, bobbing up and down on the swells in the sun. It was warm, peaceful, and glorious. Eventually, we heard a sort of swishing sound, followed by more of a swoosh, and then we saw the mother whale rise majestically out of the water, no more than 100 yards from our kayak. She was followed shortly thereafter by her calf, and their male escort.

They were magnificent and wondrous. They spouted water out of their blowholes, and then slowly sunk back beneath the waves.

It was an incredible, magical, awesome moment that I will never forget.

After our own private whale sighting, we paddled our way around the sea cliffs over to the first of two different snorkeling sites. Geoff & I managed to put on our snorkeling equipment and slide out of the kayak without overturning it, and suddenly we were in a real life aquarium. It was wonderful to look at all of the fish and other creatures, but very quickly we became quite cold. It was quite windy and the water temperature was lower than we would have liked.

Sadly we didn't feel comfortable snorkeling very long, and got back into the kayak, where I experienced full body shivering, which was really quite extraordinary. My teeth were chattering so hard I was worried about chipping them, and my hands were shaking so badly that I couldn't tear open the packaging of the granola bar that the guide handed me.

I looked at Geoff and laughed, because he wasn't faring much better. It was actually pretty ridiculous that we were freezing in Maui. Next time we will get some wetsuits!

We headed to the second snorkeling stop, and unfortunately there were lots of catamarans and boats anchored there and it was quite crowded with other snorkelers. It was still too cold, and so we headed back for the beach not long afterwards.

In spite of the cold, it was still a wonderful experience. The snorkeling was great (although physically unpleasant), and the whale sighting was way over the top - something not at all anticipated and yet the highlight of the trip.

That afternoon we met up with Mom & Dad again for lunch, then we all went to the Maui Aquarium, which was brand new and quite good. We headed back to Lahaina and went to Aloha Mixed Grill for dinner.

Kayak photos

Thursday

The next day was Geoff's grand ascent of Haleakala and I went hiking with Mom & Dad.

Haleakala was for Geoff what ziplining was for me, the most anticipated event of the trip. He got up early and drove the rental car over to Paia, which is more or less the "official" ride start of the Haleakala climb. He spent the next 3 hours and 50 minutes climbing the mountain. I believe it was about 38 miles and 10,000 feet. (It only took 1 hour and 15 minutes to come down.)

While Geoff completed one of the most epic rides, I joined my Mom & Dad for a "rainforest and waterfalls" hike. We were picked up at the hotel and along with 4 other people, were driven over to the other side of the island on the Hana Highway, where we hiked with a naturalist as our guide.

We learned to recognize wild ginger and lots of other unique plants that I will never remember. We ate papaya and passion fruit right off the tree, and learned about the curative power of the Noni fruit. We donned Japanese water shoes and waded through a stream in order to walk behind a beautiful waterfall. We hiked some more (including some really large boulders which required pulling yourself up using a climbing rope) and I was extremely proud of my mother for not only going along with us, but putting up with it willingly and without complaint.

It was a really interesting experience and we got to explore a beautiful part of the island, off the beaten path, with someone who could teach us all about the flora and fauna inhabiting it.

Later on, we all met back at the hotel and I think Geoff collapsed on the couch and napped while my parents sat by the pool and I went for a jog on the beach. We had dinner at the hotel and compared notes about the day.

Rainforest & waterfall photos

End of Part 2.


video

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Musings

Most of my recent posts have been about what a nice group ride I had last weekend, and while that is still true, you have heard it all before and probably don't care about the gritty details (especially as I keep failing to photographically document anything).

It's been great that the weekends have been so nice for riding outside. Hopefully soon I'll start to feel like I can train outside after work during the week, but for now I'm still going to spin classes at the gym. I'm not going to be doing any trainer workouts, because the desire for riding outside is too strong and the motivation to train indoors in my home is too weak. Spin class is a nice compromise, because I'm surrounded by other people who I feel "competitive" against, with someone telling me what to do and when to do it, while playing great music that makes me want to get up and pedal with abandon.

Before we changed to daylight savings time and those more hardy than I decided to head for the hills during the week, there was a regular group doing trainer sessions at Cathy's house. This was nice because it was a time to chat (in-between intervals of course) and watch DVDs. One week (which I unfortunately missed) someone brought the movie Dirty Dancing, which led to finding a review of the current musical, which lead to purchasing tickets, which resulted in dinner in the city and a night out on the town.

It was a fun evening and we all had a great time, but it wasn't the best show I've ever seen. However, it certainly was enjoyable, and it's always fun to see what cyclists look like all dressed up in real clothes. Everyone looks so different - it's a treat.

I have to say, I'm really grateful to be part of an extended group of female cyclists (teammates, non-teammates, racers and non-racers) who are also good friends beyond the cycling scene. I've had my share of ups and downs recently, and it's been reassuring to know that these folks are there for me if I need them. They seem to just accept me for who I am and are happy to ride with me or go to movies with me or do yoga with me or chat equally about trivialities or life issues, whether on IM or over coffee.

Thanks, guys, for being there. It's wonderful to know that I don't have to ride by myself unless that's what I want. There are certainly rewards for riding alone - it's a great opportunity to clear you head and get your priorities back in sync (not to mention the requisite intervals). But for times when the motivation just isn't there and the will-power needs a little boost, the ability to rely on friends for companionship, support, and friendly competition is edifying.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Teased by Spring

Last weekend was beautiful, with temperatures hovering near 60 degrees. It was so nice, in fact, that I ignored my training plan, which called for a rest week. On Saturday I met my friends in Lexington for my new favorite route through Lincoln, Sudbury & Wayland. By the time I got home, I had logged 3 hours on the cyclo-computer.

Jean, Michele A, Sallie, Janet L, & Christine

Sunday, when I probably should have just been spinning easily for an hour, I rode with Janet R and Michele A from Lexington on a modified version of the Tuesday women's ride and ended up with 2.5 hours (and did I mention the unbelievable headwind?).

Of course all of this weekend activity was preceded by a 2.5 hour advanced yoga class on Friday night. After I got home on Sunday all I wanted to do was lie on the couch and not move for the rest of the day.

That's why it's taken me so long to update my blog this week. I have been feeling quite tired. I don't think it helped to wake up to an inch of snow on the ground on Monday morning. That was a shock to the system. After such a spring-like weekend, and the onset of daylight savings time, I was ready to put winter behind me. But no! New England always gives us snow just when we think it's all over, so why would this year be any different?

I was really hoping that a week in Hawaii would have helped dispel the winter blahs, but I am still longing for summer. I am so glad that I am going to escape to Arizona in a couple of weeks. I am seriously jonesing for some sunshine and temps above 60.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Maui Trip - Part 1

Geoff and I went to Maui the 3rd week of January to meet up with my parents. It was snowing fast and furiously the morning we left. Our 6:15am flight was delayed about 20 minutes for runway clearing and/or de-icing. We were lucky we got out - I heard that other flights were canceled that day.

We had a 2 1/2 hour flight to Chicago, then a 9 1/2 hour flight from Chicago to Maui. It was a long second leg, but we were on a 777 and it was relatively comfortable.

I had my nosed pressed against the window the whole time we were over the Rockies - it was so fun to see them from above, all covered in snow. We also flew over San Francisco, which was a treat. I've never been there, but would love to go one day. I took quite a few photos from the plane.

We arrived in Maui around 4pm and were pretty tired. We went to pick up our rental car and the office was seriously crowded. They must have had an influx of winter weather escapees, because the only cars they had left were luxury models. They told us that we had to take a black Lincoln Town Car or wait another hour or more.

So we drove the behemoth about 3 miles to the hotel in Kahului where we were staying for the night, checked in, attempted to park without hitting anything, changed into flip flops, strolled on the beach, took photos, then went to the local mall to stock up on sunscreen and find something to eat.

Monday morning we went back to the car rental office and exchanged the mafia mobile for a Mazda M6, which was much more comfortable for us - easier to maneuver on the twisty coastal and mountain roads.

We headed over to the Iao Valley State Monument to check out the Iao Needle and learn a little bit about the island's history. We were lucky to get in and out just before a large tour bus from one of the cruise ships arrived. Then we headed over to the beautiful Maui Tropical Plantation for lunch, where we our first (and possibly best) smoothies of the vacation.

After lunch we drove around to the west side of the island, where we would be staying with my parents for the rest of the week. We stopped at West Maui Cycles to pick up Geoff's rental bike, then headed to the timeshare resort on Kaanapali Beach.

My parents had reserved a beautiful oceanfront room with wonderful views of Molokai across the water. We unpacked some stuff and headed to dinner.

Iao Valley & Molokai photos.

End of Part 1, more to come.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Self-portrait

This is what my hair looked like this morning - for those of you that have been wondering.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Last minute decision

When I was planning my weekend, the forecast for Saturday was high wind and for Sunday they were predicting snow. Since I had a 1pm hair appointment on Saturday, I decided to do a trainer workout and planned to snowshoe or xc ski on Sunday.

I was surprised to wake up Sunday morning to see that it was dry. Unfortunately I had slept really late, wasting most of the dry time, as the rain was due to start around noon.

I wasn't sure what to do - I thought about going to the gym to do a session on a spin bike, but after being on the trainer twice this week, I didn't really want another day indoors. In the meantime, Geoff had gotten dressed and ready to ride, which helped to inspire me to get out on the road while I could. I scurried around getting ready, found my Showers Pass rain jacket, and put the fenders on.

I thought that I'd just do an hour or an hour and a half, so I headed out through Belmont and Lexington into Lincoln. I planned to loop back through Waltham, but I was having a really nice ride and it wasn't raining yet, so instead I turned towards Sudbury and Wayland.

About 15 minutes after I made that decision, it started raining. It was really gentle at first and I almost didn't notice. Then after a while I realized that my glasses and computer screen were wet, then finally my legs felt clammy and chilly.

At 1.5 hours I stopped near a flock of shaggy sheep to have some Sport Beans (and take a picture). It was a mistake, though, because it made me very cold and I lost my ability to spin fast.

I headed straight home from there, but it still left me with at 2.5 hour ride for the day - about twice as long as I thought I'd do when I left the house.